Written By: TojveroulBangladesh
IN A welcome move to stop gross rights violations in the custody of the law enforcement agencies, the High Court issued 15 directives on arrests and remands on April 7, 2003. Apart from asking the police not to make any further arrest on mere suspicion and interrogate the arrested in custody, the court also asked judicial magistrates to remand the detained in custody for a maximum of three days in exceptional cases only after reports of obtaining medical tests on the detained. Judicial magistrates were also asked to seek another report from the doctor, who earlier conducted the tests, after the remand and take suo moto action against investigation officers in case there were any complaints of torture or death in law enforcer’s custody. The directives required the investigation officer and the jailor to immediately inform judicial magistrate of deaths, if any, in custody, apart from asking for the construction of glass-walled rooms at jail gates for interrogation. Regrettably, however, almost all the directives still remain unheeded. What is more unfortunate is that even the Appellate Division’s verdict issued in May upholding all the directives has so far also met the same fate. The two recent custodial deaths, of an 18-year-old victim in ‘gunfight’ in Madaripur who was remanded in police in the machete attack on a college teacher and of a 19-year-old young man from Shatkhira in another ‘gunfight’ in Dhaka after reportedly being picked up by plainclothes police personnel a few months ago and was accused of killing blogger Avijit Roy, are the latest examples in this regard, as New Age reported on Thursday. One can also refer in this connection to the executive director of rights group Ain O Salish Kendra who pointed out that more than 1,700 people have been killed in ‘gunfight’, ‘crossfire’ or ‘encounter’ with law enforcers since 2004. In all these incidents, as lawyers that New Age quoted alleged, the police took the victims in their custody without producing them in court, a flagrant violation of the law that requires the detained to be produced in court within 24 hours of the arrest. In the latest extrajudicial killing in Madaripur, the local court that remanded the alleged member of a banned Islamist outfit in police custody could easily seek explanation from the investigation officer concerned in line with the High Court directives. But, regrettably, such action is still elusive. In an apparent effort to justify their tendency to bypass the Supreme Court order, meanwhile, the chief metropolitan magistrate of Dhaka said that they could not comply with the guidelines while remanding the victim in custody, in particular, as they were yet to receive any copy of the court’s order. In any case, while all concerned must comply with the directives in question, the higher judiciary is expected to keep tabs on the compliance with the directives. Conscious sections of society, especially rights organisations, should also raise voice about the issue.
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