LAW enforcement agencies are not known only for their good jobs. Law enforcers are reported to be doing excesses, using force more than what is needed and, sometime, becoming engaged in criminal activities and trampling down fundamental rights of citizens, as media reports show. They also have aberrations from the law in dealing with the crime suspects and people detained on suspicion. While they need to discover, deter, rehabilitate and punish people who stand in breach of the rules and norms that govern society, such aberrations sometimes stand the law enforcers in breach of the rule of law. And what is worrying is that there seems to be no meaningful redress for such affronts. It is in this context of the recurrence of rights violation by law enforcers with an impunity that rights campaigners in a programme on the rule of law and the role of the law enforcement agencies in Dhaka, as New Age reported on Sunday, have rightly put forth the demand for the institution of an independent police complaints commission to deal with complaints of such aberrations of the law enforcement agencies. They also have rightly demanded that the police need to be freed of political influence for any such mechanism to do good to society.
The rights defenders who spoke at the programme also demanded that issues of discriminatory law enforcement should be identified and the laws made in the colonial era should be amended to protect citizens’ rights and advance the rule of law. A police complaint is also needed in view of the fact that any law enforcers accused of being involved in crimes or standing in breach of law are mostly investigated by the law enforcers themselves, which has the risk of the investigation not producing any results because of the clan feeling that exists between them. A case in example in this connection could be the Independent Police Complaint Commission of England and Wales, which is a non-departmental public body, operating under statutory powers and duties defined by an act to oversee the system for handling complaints made against police forces. In England and Wales, for an example, while investigations of the commission are former police officers, the commissioners cannot have worked for the police and this helps in maintaining neutrality of the investigations of complaints that member of the public file against law enforcers. The government should, therefore, immediately set out to institute such a commission based on research and study of similar propositions in other countries if it wants to keep police forces from getting into issues that are in breach of the law.
But the government must, first, realise that it needs to let police forces go of its political clutch and stop using them for partisan gains. The government, in such a situation, must, therefore, initiate a process of taking on board all stakeholders in its efforts to set up an independent police complaints commission to advance the rule of law and to stop rights violation by law enforcers.
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