Police, jailors dodge compliance with HC directives on remand

Tapos Kanti Das and Manzur H Maswood

The police and the jail authorities dodged complying with High Court directives on interrogation of detained persons.
Several top police and prison officials  even said that they were not aware that the 15 directives  were issued by the High Court almost 13 years ago.
A bench of Justice Md Hamidul Haque and Justice Salma Masud Chowdhury issued the directives in a landmark verdict  on April 7, 2003.
The directives prohibited abuse of power by the police while arresting people on suspicion and interrogating them on remand.
The directives provided the guidelines for better policing.
In the verdict, the court also directed the government to build rooms with glass walls at jails for the interrogation of the detained persons.
The directives required interrogation the detained persons at prison gates in the presence of their relative and lawyers until rooms glass walled rooms were made.
The directives were flouted completely as no glass walled rooms had been built and the interrogation of the detained take place in the absence of their relatives and lawyers.
Detained war crimes suspects alone get the benefits of the HC directives.
A 60-page study report released by Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust in December revealed that the police and the jail authorities lacked the alacrity to comply with the HC directives.
The report says that for the study, BLAST interviewed 56 persons who suffered arrests without warrants on mere suspicion.
It says that 33 of them told BLAST that they were tortured during interrogation in police remand.
Only 10 of them said that they escaped torture by bribing the   police, the report said.
Most of them said that they were interrogated at police stations or unknown places.
Only a few said that they were interrogated at jail gates.
All 33 respondents said that none of them were interrogated in the presence of their relatives and lawyers.
And 32 of them said there  health certificates from competent doctors were neither taken nor submitted by the police in the courts.
Remand in this country means that a detained person would be subjected to torture in police custody to force him give  evidence against himself in gross violation of the Constitution of the Republic,  said National Human Rights Commission chairman Mizanur Rahman.
The Constitution stipulates that none would be forced to give evidence against himself, he said.
He said that in the directives the HC asked the government, the  police, magistrates, jail authorities and the sessions judges to ensure that the human rights of those arrested without warrants were not violated in custody or remand.
But the situation remains unchanged even after the directives were issued by the High Court.
The authorities’ indifference to comply with the HC directives  reflected their complete lack of will to respect to human rights, said the NHRC chairman.
Ain O Salish Kendra executive director Sultana Kamal said whenever they raise the issue the authorities cite budget shortage for the failure to develop glass walled rooms for the interrogations.
‘It means that there is no change in the culture of torture during  remand, ’ said Sultana Kamal.
‘We never heard that such directives were issued by the High Court’, said deputy inspector general of prisons AKM Fazlul Haque.
‘No,’ was his reply to the question whether glass walled rooms were built in any prison in the country for interrogating  detained people.
‘We usually provide a room at the jail gate to investigation officers when they produce orders from courts to interrogate anyone.
But no presence of family members or lawyers is allowed during any interrogation, he said.
Police spokesman Nazrul Islam said the atmosphere and  situation in Bangladesh did not permit interrogating detained people in glass walled rooms.
‘You don’t need to take the comments from the police as everyone knows what happens in Bangladesh during interrogation’ he said to the question whether police  interrogates detained persons in the presence of their family members and lawyers.
The High Court issued the 15 directives in verdict it delivered in 2003 after hearing a public interest litigation writ petition.
The petition was jointly filed by  BLAST and other human rights organizations and activists.
The petitioners challenged the arbitrary abuse of power of power by the police in arresting people on suspicion and subjecting them to torture in  custody.

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