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Law to Stop Extrajudicial Acts - Bill sees light at end of govt tenure

Bangladesh on 24 October 2013
Location : Bangladesh | Source : The Daily Star. Image Source: Travelskerricks

The Jatiya Sangsad will today pass a bill that will allow life-term jail for law enforcers or government officials convicted of custodial death, torture and cruel inhumane treatment.

The bill also proposes some stringent punishments including suspension from the service during investigation of such charges against an offender, regardless of whether the offender is a member of regular law enforcement agency or the armed forces, or of any other government office.

Officials charged with the offence would not be able to justify their acts citing exceptional circumstances, including a state of war, internal political instability, a state of emergency, order of a superior officer or a public authority, says the bill.

With the consent of Prime Minister and Leader of the House Sheikh Hasina, the Business Advisory Committee of the House yesterday at a meeting with Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury in the chair decided to have the bill passed, meeting sources said.

The bill titled “prevention of custodial deaths and tortures” was placed a few months after the current parliament began its journey in 2009.
The parliamentary standing committee on the private members’ bills and resolutions in a report placed in the House in March 2011 recommended passage of the bill, sources in the parliament secretariat said.

As the tenure of the current parliament was almost at its end, the business advisory committee decided to pass the bill placed by ruling Awami League MP Saber Hossain. The current session, the last session of the ninth parliament, would be prorogued on November 7.

The bill was drafted to conform to the UN convention against torture, and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, which was adopted on December 10, 1984.

Bangladesh signed the convention led by a previous Awami League-led government on October 5, 1998, promising to create effective legislation, and to take administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in its territory.

The constitution also provides safeguards against torture. Article 35 (5) of the constitution addresses it directly, saying, “No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or treatment.”

There was a long period in the country, when a large number of extrajudicial killings, torture and abuses of human rights were reported.
However, no government, including Awami League-led ones, made any move to enact any law to prevent such incidents.

Saber in a statement tagged with the bill had stressed the need for such a law, given the ruthless wanton practices of illegal arrests, detentions, torture, and extrajudicial killings in the country.

“The country must legislate urgently in order to criminalise custodial torture and deaths, and to avoid repetition of serious human rights violations — a sad and unacceptable feature of our past,” Saber added.

He was of the view that the legislation was imperative to ensure rule of law in the country.

The proposed legislation was expected to protect the people from abuse, and prevent recurrence of human rights violations.

In the bill torture means any act or omission that causes physical or mental pain to any person, for obtaining from that person or some other person, information or a confession, or for punishing that person for any act or omission, for which that person or some other person is responsible, or is suspected of being responsible, or for intimidating or coercing that person or some other person.

“Any person who tortures any other person shall be guilty of an offence, and any person who attempts to commit, aid and abet in committing, and conspires to commit an offence shall also be guilty of an offence,” says the bill.

As per the Business Advisory Committee’s decision, the House will pass another private member’s bill today to enact a law ensuring allowances for parents. Jatiya Party lawmaker Mujibul Haq had placed the bill.

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