ENFORCED disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrests, unacknowledged detention and custodial death continue to happen as the United Nations Committee Against Torture, on Friday, issued a statement noting concern about such a rights situation in Bangladesh. The UN committee came up with the statement days after a hearing, which took place in Geneva in July 30–31, on the report that Bangladesh submitted to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in July. The committee — which in its findings or concluding observations noted positive aspects of the states in implementing the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment — also highlighted main issues of concern and made recommendations. The statement expressed the concern of the committee about consistent reports that alleged widespread and routine torture and ill treatment by the law enforcement agencies as a device to obtain confession or to solicit bribe, lack of publicly available information on such cases and the government’s failure to ensure the accountability of the law enforcement agencies, with the Rapid Action Battalion especially being noted. The committee also expressed concern about the pressure put on the judiciary that constrains fundamental legal safeguards, saying that the limited use of the mandate of the National Human Rights Commission to investigate torture has remained an issue.
Soon after the hearing, rights activists in Dhaka on August 3 also noted concerns about the prevalence of torture, secret detention and extrajudicial killing. They termed the situation at hand ‘terrible’ and noted that the report that Bangladesh submitted to the United Nations was ‘unrealistic.’ The speakers attending the discussion at the National Press Club noted it as a positive step for the Bangladesh government to have submitted its initial state report to the UN committee more than 20 years after it acceded to the UN Convention Against Torture in 1984, but said that the questions raised about human rights have not all been answered and feared that many issues, including the implementation of the laws, may have been avoided. The UN committee, in the statement, meanwhile, urged the Bangladesh government to publicly acknowledge that torture would not be tolerated under any circumstances and ensure that its authorities, through an independent agency, should carry out prompt, impartial, effective criminal investigation of all complaints of torture, ill treatment, unacknowledged detention, disappearances and deaths in custody. The committee also expressed concern about the inadequate prison condition, violence against women and national and religious minorities and corporal punishment in law and against children. The UN committee advised Bangladesh to ratify the Option Protocol under the Convention Against Torture, to which Bangladesh is yet to be a party, to establish a national preventive mechanism against torture.
The government of Bangladesh, under the circumstances, must act to stop such violations of human rights that have continued in the form of enforced disappearances, custodial torture, extrajudicial killing, arbitrary arrests and unacknowledged detention. The government must, if required, amend the laws such as the Code of Criminal Procedure to effect reforms regarding arrest without warrant and detention on remand, the Prisons Act to dispense with corporal punishment and the Digital Security Act that restricts civic space.
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