Police brutality cannot go unpunished

The Daily Star  June 26, 2020

Judicial inquiry into alleged torture gives justice some hope

The High Court has asked the Jashore civil surgeon to submit a report on the physical condition of college student Imran Hossain, whose kidney was damaged due to alleged police torture in Jashore. It has also directed the Superintendent of Police in Jashore to submit an investigation report on the incident on June 28, following the hearing of a writ petition that had been filed seeking judicial inquiry, compensation and all medical expenses of the defendant.

According to news reports, Imran, a second-year college student, was brutally beaten by police after he ran from them in fear. The beating was so bad that Imran lost consciousness and was later diagnosed to have suffered kidney damage. Once Imran regained consciousness, the police allegedly proceeded to acquire a bribe of Tk 30,000 for his release, but eventually let him go in exchange for Tk 6,000, with a warning of further repercussion should he disclose being tortured.

The incident happened in the same week that a farmer from Gopalganj named Nikhil died after succumbing to the critical injuries he sustained, after allegedly being tortured by a cop who has since been arrested on charges of assault. But unlike in that case, so far in the Jashore incident, the police and a three-member committee led by the Additional Superintendent of Police have completely denied the charges against the accused, although two accused ASIs were withdrawn after the event.

Accusations of police torture have become a regular phenomenon. Article 12 of the United Nations Convention against Torture, which Bangladesh is a signatory to, requires the state to ensure “competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, where there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction.” However, such requirement is barely ever followed, and in most cases, accusations are either dismissed off hand, or self-investigation by the agency under scrutiny absolves its own members. The lack of transparency and independent inquiry means there is a huge gap in accountability. Therefore, it is not difficult to see why members of law enforcing agencies are emboldened to resort to such heavy-handed tactics repeatedly.

We are encouraged by the HC’s decision to enquire into the matter. In the absence of any meaningful measure by the executive to investigate these type of matters, the judiciary’s role to reign in police brutality becomes ever more important. And we sincerely hope that it fulfils that duty. Meanwhile, we call on the other state organs to come to their senses and do their part to ensure an end to police brutality and to punish those errant cops who inflict such torture on people.

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