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Calls for end to torture, extrajudicial killings

An activist is manhandled during a protest in July 2011 in Dhaka. Bangladeshi police have often been accused of heavy-handed tactics

Continuing police torture and extrajudicial killings in Bangladesh need to be stamped out, say rights activists, officials and citizens.

Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh Mizanur Rahman told IRIN a lack of accountability within the law enforcement system is to blame for persistent evidence of torture seen by the commission.

“Torture in police custody and extrajudicial killings by law enforcers in Bangladesh is one of our top priority concerns and areas of intervention,” Rahman said. “This must be stopped.”

Odhikar, a local human rights organization, said at least 10 people had been tortured to death by law enforcement agencies in the first six months of 2011. It documented 67 torture cases in 2010, which led to 22 people reportedly dying. There were 68 cases of reported torture in custody in 2009.

“There is a growing sense of impunity felt by law enforcement officials with regard to torture, and this must stop now or it’s going to get worse here," said Adilur Rahman Khan, secretary of Odhikar. “Most of the victims of torture do not report it out of fear; therefore, whatever data we have is just the tip of the iceberg."

Extrajudicial killings have been documented by New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), which, in May 2011, said that since 2009 nearly 200 people had allegedly been killed by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), an elite law-enforcement agency.

“No RAB officer has ever been prosecuted for any of the killings carried out by the force,” said the HRW report.

In March 2011, RAB was publicly criticized for shooting college student Limon Hossain in Jhalakathi District, southern Bangladesh.

Though defence adviser to the prime minister retired Maj-Gen Tarique Ahmed Siddique and Home Minister Sahara Khatun defended RAB, the agency accused Hossain and his family of having criminal connections.

Hossain was eventually freed, after the media and rights activists drew attention to the case and his believed innocence.

“Political will” needed

"Our law enforcers need to train up on human rights to stop torture and extrajudicial killings," said Sultana Kamal, a former adviser to the caretaker government and head of Ain o Shalish Kendra, a legal aid and human rights organization and chairman of Transparency International Bangladesh. To achieve this goal, “the government’s political will is critical,” she said.

Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs Abdus Sobhan Sidker told IRIN: “The government of Bangladesh does not accept the usage of torture or extrajudicial killing and will do everything in its power to stop it.”

Abdul Kadar, a Dhaka University student, told IRIN he was recently tortured and arrested on trumped-up charges on his way home from his sister’s house.

He said police beat him and used sticks and sharp objects to make him confess to crimes he did not commit. He was charged with possessing lethal weapons, robbery and carjacking, then put in jail. Following campaigns by the media and rights activists, the high court ordered him to be released on 3 August after 18 days in detention. One of the officers involved has been suspended.

“I was not served water while I was crying out in pain and I was not taken to hospital even 18 hours after my arrest,” Kadar said.

As a signatory of the UN Convention against Torture, Bangladesh’s government takes a hard line on torture on paper, but each year there are more stories like Kadar’s, or worse.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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