Tuesday, June 18, 2024

JS passes bill stipulating life term for custodial death

Parliament on Thursday passed a private member’s bill stipulating a minimum punishment of life-term with fines for law enforcement personnel or government officials for custodial death, torture and cruel inhumane treatment. The bill also provides for suspension of the accused from service during investigation of the charges, regardless of whether the offender is a member of regular law enforcement agency or the armed forces, or of any other government office.
For the death due to torture in custody, it stipulates a minimum punishment of life-term or a fine of at least Tk one lakh or both and in addition a fine of Tk two lakh to be paid to the family of the victim.
It defines custodial death as any death in custody; death during illegal detention, death during arrest by law enforcers, and death during interrogation.
The bill defines torture as any act of omission or commission that causes physical or mental pain to any individual, for obtaining from that individual or some other individual, information or a confession, or for punishing that individual for any act of omission or commission, for intimidating or coercing that person or some other person.
It says causing physical or mental pain to an individual at the individual or government capacity would also be considered as torture.
The bill says that officials guilty of torture and cruel inhumane treatment and death in custody would have to take the responsibility and would not be able to justify their acts citing exceptional circumstances, including state of war, internal political instability, state of emergency or order from a superior officer or public authority.
The accused individual would have to prove that the harms caused to the victims did not take place due to his personal negligence.
Bangladesh ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment on 5 October 1998, but a decade later, the country still does not have any specific law criminalizing torture.
Bangladesh has not ratified the Convention’s Optional Protocol.
The bill criminalizing torture and custodial death, prepared in accordance with CAT obligations, was submitted to parliament as a Private Member’s Bill by Saber Hossain Chowdhury, MP, of ruling Awami Leagueon February 18, 2009.
Saber said that he brought the bill to make a law compliant to the UN Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
The Committee on Private Members’ Bills and Resolutions vetted the bill in March 2011.
Saber in a statement tagged with the bill stressed the need for a law for the prevention of ruthless and wanton practice of illegal arrests, detentions, torture, and extrajudicial killings in the country.
‘The country must legislate urgently in order to criminalize custodial torture and deaths, and to avoid repetition of serious human rights violations — a sad and unacceptable feature of our past,’ Saber added.
Citing constitutional safeguards against torture, rights groups in Bangladesh have been demanding the legislation for long in the wake of huge number of extrajudicial killings, custodial deaths, torture and abuse of human rights.
The endless practice of torture practiced with impunity prompted the rights groups in the country to raise their voice against the high handedness as victims often refrain from complaining about torture.
At least 290 people in custody were subjected to torture by law enforcers and 71 of them were tortured to death across the country from January 2009 to May 2013, according to rights watchdogs.
Article 35(5) of the Constitution stipulates, ‘No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or treatment.’
Parliament also passed another private member’s bill introduced by Mujibul Haq, MP of Jatiya Party. Following enactment the new law proposed by Mujib would entitle parents to get allowances.

-With New Age input

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