Bangladesh authorities should investigate recent allegations of enforced disappearances and torture. Violent protests broke out on January 19 in Gazipur after Mohammad Rabiul Islam, died in police custody allegedly due to torture. The police said he had been hit by a truck. Raghunath Kha, a journalist, was tortured in Detective Branch custody on January 23 after being arrested by police in Satkhira district. A senior officer at Satkhira’s Detective Branch said: “Nothing such happened”.
DHAKA FEBRUARY 2023: Bangladesh authorities should investigate recent allegations of enforced disappearances and torture including by members of the police Detective Branch.
Violent protests broke out on January 19 in Gazipur after Mohammad Rabiul Islam, a 38-year-old shopkeeper, died in police custody allegedly due to torture, although the police said he had been hit by a truck.
On January 29, Abu Hossain Rajon, a lawyer, alleged that he was detained for a week at Hartijheel police station, but was taken to Detective Branch headquarters every day where he said he was tortured and interrogated. The police, however, denied he had been arrested.
Raghunath Kha, a journalist, alleged that he was tortured in Detective Branch custody on January 23 after being arrested by police in Satkhira district. “I was blindfolded at the police station and was taken to the DB office, where they put devices on both my ears and electrocuted me in phases for half an hour. They beat me upon my feet with a stick,” Raghunath told the media.
A senior officer at Satkhira’s Detective Branch, dismissed Kha’s claims saying: “Nothing such happened.”
Bangladesh’s Detective Branch has previously been implicated in allegations of grave human rights abuses by local human rights groups, including enforced disappearances and torture.
Allegations of torture in Bangladesh are rarely investigated or prosecuted. Following a review in July 2019, the UN Committee against Torture described the Bangladesh police as a “state within a state,”assertingthat “in general, one got the impression that the police, as well as other law enforcement agencies, were able to operate with impunity and zero accountability.”
Only one case of torture has ever been convicted under Bangladesh’s Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act since it was passed a decade ago, according to media reports.
Bangladesh has ignored repeated requests from the UN Committee Against Torture to follow up its recommendations, as required. The Committee’s recommendations included independent monitoring of all detention sites and investigation of all allegations of torture or ill-treatment by law enforcement officials.
Bangladesh security forces are under increased scrutiny following the designation of human rights sanctions by the US government and in the lead-up to general elections slated for early 2024. Bangladesh authorities should implement the recommendations by the Committee Against Torture, investigate allegations, and hold perpetrators to account.
Author: Meenakshi Ganguly
Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, oversees the organization’s work in the region. Ganguly has worked on a broad range of issues including police reform, sexual violence, discrimination based on religion or caste, freedom of expression, and armed conflict. Prior to joining Human Rights Watch, Ganguly served as the South Asia correspondent for Time Magazine, covering Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. Ganguly has a Masters in Sociology from the Delhi School of Economics.
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This article was originally published on HRW
Images: Faisal Akram & Nahid Sultan