TORTURE and criminal misconduct of members of the law enforcement agencies have taken an endemic turn. On the occasion of International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the Asian Human Rights Commission and Odhikar suggested that, as New Age reported on Sunday, torture is institutionalised in Bangladesh. Policing, keeping law and order, and conducting criminal investigations all incorporate torture as an integral part. The widespread use of torture goes underreported and is collectively covered up by the judicial and administrative authorities to the benefits of political parties in power. The statistics of another rights organisation, Ain o Salish Kendra, supports this claim. According to records, in the first quarter of 2017, 74 people were killed in custody of different law enforcement agencies. Not only an increased number of people were killed in custody, the complaint mechanism to report the cases of torture exists merely on paper. The police often refuse to take allegation against their own and even when they accept allegation, they do not investigate it impartially. For years, the use of extrajudicial powers by the law enforcement agencies has been in plain sight with no effective measures to contain it.
It is in this context that in 2013, Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act was made and in May 2016, the Supreme Court issued guidelines for law enforcement agencies and magistrates, judges and tribunals for dealing with a person detained and accused under the special powers act. On recognising that the guideline is not followed, the High Court further directed the authorities on May 7 to keep tab on monthly conference between magistrates and the police to see whether the guidelines are followed. The most recent reported cases of torture and death in custody, however, proves that these preventive measures have failed to contain torture. The death of a student leader from Chittagong Hill Tracts and the mistreatment of a student of Jahnagirnagar University in custody reflects on this failure. Such flouting of law is only possible, as argued by jurist and academics, when law enforcement agencies unofficially exercise extrajudicial powers. There are instances when Section 54 of Code of Criminal Procedure is manipulated as profit-making business. Legal experts working on the issue of custodial torture have also identified the way the incumbent is allegedly using and abusing the police force to keep its control by using forces. It is time that the incumbent realised that it is risking the confidence of the people and ensured that all authorities concerned should adhere to the law and the court guidelines and those in violation should be disciplined.
To restore the faith of public in the law enforcement agencies, the incumbent must take a strict approach and make it evident in practice that the moral failure of the members of the law enforcement agencies will not go unpunished. The endemic nature of torture in the law enforcement system must be contained.
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