IT WAS, first, the UN Committee Against Torture in a statement on August 9 that noted concern about rights violations in Bangladesh, with enforced disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrests, unacknowledged detention and custodial death continuing to happen. And now, in about a week, seven other rights groups, six international and one local, in a statement on Wednesday noted their concern about the rights violation, calling out the Bangladesh government on recognising the magnitude of torture that is taking place and implementing the recommendations that the UN Committee Against Torture made to improve on the situation. 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 UN statement expressed concern about consistent reports on alleged, widespread torture and ill treatment by law enforcers as a device to obtain confession or to solicit bribe and the government’s failure to ensure the accountability of the law enforcement agencies.
While soon after the UN hearing, rights activists in Dhaka on August 3 also noted concern about the prevalence of torture and said that the report that Bangladesh submitted to the United Nations was ‘unrealistic’ and may not have answered all the questions raised about human rights, fearing that many issues, including the implementation of the laws, may have been avoided, the seven groups — which include the International Federation for Human Rights, the Asian Legal Resources Centre and the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development that is better known as Forum-Asia — urged the Bangladesh government to submit a follow-up report within a year, with details on the progress in combatting torture and after attending to other serious abuse of human rights. The UN committee urged the Bangladesh government to publicly acknowledge that torture would not be tolerated under any circumstances and to 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 UN Committee Against Torture also advised Bangladesh to ratify the Optional Protocol under the Convention Against Torture, to which Bangladesh is yet to be a party, to establish a national preventive mechanism against torture. The UN committee has also advised Bangladesh to amend legislations that restrict civic space.
The government, in such a situation which generates rights abuse furore both at home and abroad, 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 Code of Criminal Procedure, the Prisons Act and the Digital Security Act to effect reforms regarding arrest without warrant and detention on remand, stop corporal punishment and ensure the needed civic space.
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