Non-compliance with HC order on torture unacceptable

Editorial, NewAge, June 27, 2008. Dhaka, Bangladesh

WE FIND it extremely unfortunate that five years after the High Court Division issued an order on the government to amend section 167 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in order to stop torture, especially torture of people taken into state custody, nothing has been done to give effect to that order. Instead, despite the fact that Bangladesh is a signatory to all major international instruments against the use of torture and thereby is pledge-bound to end torture, we have witnessed an alarming rise in the reported incidences of torture by government agencies during this repressive state of emergency that has suspended the fundamental and democratic rights of the people. Moreover, with the adoption of the Emergency Powers Rules that have done away with many of the checks and balances there were in the first place, it is not surprising that the law enforcers and military personnel perceivably feel increasingly emboldened to carry out torture on the people.

In our view, torture, in all its forms and under every imaginable circumstance, is unacceptable. It is primitive, it is barbaric, it is cruel and it is inhuman. There can be nothing more deplorable, therefore, than the use of torture by the state, which is essentially tasked to protect the rights of its citizens. Yet, unfortunately, torture has continually been used by our law enforcement agencies and the military, sometimes to extract information from detainees, sometimes to arbitrarily and extra-judicially punish alleged criminals and at other times as acts of personal or institutional vengeance against their enemies, whether real or perceived. So widespread has torture become in recent times that, on average, two people die at the hands of law enforcers every month. How many more are beaten and maimed can only be speculated upon. This is unacceptable, especially for a society that aspires towards a genuinely democratic system that is based on the rule of law. When a state tortures its citizens, it not only violates the basic, inalienable rights of its people but makes a mockery of the rule of law.

If the current military-controlled regime were serious about establishing the rule of law and strengthening the roots of our democracy, it would have stopped, we believe, the use of extrajudicial tactics such as harassment and torture long ago. That we have witnessed a rise in torture carried out by the state indicates that this regime does not have a democratic orientation at all, much less the willingness or ability to deliver a truly democratic polity. As another International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture has come and gone, we still await, at the very least, amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure as per the directives of the High Court to stop this sinister practice.


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