Bangladesh police have demanded repeal of a law that prohibits mental and physical torture in custody and have sought Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s intervention to get the law scrapped.
Senior police officials put forward the demand when the Prime Minister attended the Police Welfare Parade at Rajarbagh Police Lines on Monday, reports The Daily Star. The police argued that the law was curbing the rights of law enforcers and was demoralizing them.
In her response, Hasina said, “I don’t know whether it would be right to repeal the law, which has been passed by parliament.” She said the law was piloted by a man who was tortured severely during the BNP rule.
Referring to the Supreme Court’s verdict last November that directed magistrates to take action against errant police officers for infringement of the anti-torture law, the PM said since the court issued the directive, she would not make any comment.
But, Hasina said, she did not know why the court delivered such a verdict.
The Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act, which the Jatiya Sangsad passed in 2013, stated that torture in custody by law enforcers or government officials is a punishable criminal offence.
Awami League lawmaker Saber Hossain Chowdhury placed the Bill in 2009 in line with Article 35(5) of the constitution which also prohibits torture. “No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or treatment,” reads the article.
During Monday’s programme, additional SP of Comilla Tanveer Salehin Emon said the anti-torture law allowed anyone to file a case over mental torture, without explaining what would constitute mental torture. As a result anyone may file false cases against police, Emon argued.
Besides, the High Court ordered the judicial magistrates to accept suo motu cases against investigating officers, officers-in-charge and commanding officers without any investigation into any sort of allegation of torture, he said.
Emon said the law would eventually dampen policemen’s enthusiasm to interrogate the accused. They would be demoralized and lose the spirit of work. Public safety would be compromised as a result, he said.
The police department had sent a proposal to the home ministry in 2015 for bringing major changes to the law and had wanted safeguards from prosecution for custodial death and torture.
In the proposal, the police had wanted the Rapid Action Battalion (Rab), Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Special Branch (SB) and Detective Branch (DB) of police be excluded from the purview of the anti-torture law.
In defence of the proposed changes, police had argued that the law might cause impediment to the duties of law enforcement agencies to save lives and properties during political instability, especially from arson and other subversive activities.
The home ministry had formed a committee to scrutinize the proposals and made a move to bring amendments. At that time, rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Ain o Salish Kendra, had expressed concern and had criticized the government move and the police demand.