The United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) has expressed concern over Bangladesh government’s failure to disclose information about allegations of torture against law enforcers, their misconduct, absence of their accountability as well as incidents of unacknowledged detention and enforced disappearance.
Reviewing the situation in Bangladesh for the first time since it became a signatory to the UNCAT charter, the UNCAT committee expressed concern over many other issues.
In its final observations published in Geneva of Switzerland yesterday, the committee came up with 77 recommendations for the government. Those include formation of an independent commission to conduct enquiry into the allegations.
The committee also regretted a delay of 20 years by Bangladesh in placing its first report to it since the country became the signatory to the charter.
The review committee of UNCAT, however, termed constructive the government’s verbal and written replies to different questions raised at its meeting in Geneva on July 30 and 31.
At the inception of the observation, the committee welcomed Bangladesh for signing or approving many charters and protocols relating to human rights.
The committee then urged the government to inform it about the progress on these issues by August 9 next year, giving priority on three things.
The first is ensuring that magistrates and law enforcement authorities properly follow High Court directives on prevention of custodial torture and death. The second one is making sure that independent bodies, private organisations or NOG representatives can inspect the places of detention as well as ensuring a system for investigating allegations from detained persons. The third is protecting the NGOs which are assisting the UNCAT to stop harassment.
At the same time, the UNCAT appreciated Bangladesh for talking initiatives for reforming and amending eight laws, including the Custodial Torture and Death (Prevention) Act, 2013 and the Prevention of Cruelty against Women and Children Act 2000.
The UNCAT defined the unacknowledged detention of the people -- whether they are killed or they come back -- as internationally disappeared.
The UNCAT committee then expressed disappointment at the government not providing it with information about whether investigation had been conducted into the killings of Ekramul Haque of Cox’s Bazar and Sheikh Mokhlesur Rahman and similar allegations.
The committee in the final observations mentioned the concern expressed by the disappearance-related committee of the United Nations Human Rights Commission over repeated incidents of enforced disappearance in Bangladesh.
The committee recommended that the government instruct the law enforcers to stop unacknowledged detention, to ensure that nobody is in any hidden prison or detention centre inside the country. It also recommended that the government publish a list of all acknowledged detention centres immediately.
The committee said there were believable allegations of torture, arbitrary arrest, unacknowledged detention, forced disappearance and extrajudicial killings in the custody of Rapid Action Battalion.
It termed the incident of seven murder in Narayanganj an exceptional incident, but said no criminal investigation and trial has taken place against the (culprit) RAB personnel for violation of law.
The committee of the UNCAT urged the government to constitute an independent commission to probe the allegations against the RAB personnel and to ensure protection of the people from harassment and threats.
It then recommended stopping the practice of sending members of the armed forces to the Rab on deputation for a specific period.
The UNCAT urged the government to scrap the Section 13 of the Armed Police Battalion Act saying that the section has given impunity to the law enforcers from the allegation of torture and extrajudicial killing.
The committee also expressed concern over incidents where human rights activists, lawyers and journalists were harassed and victimised for raising voice against torture and enforced disappearance.
It, however, welcomed the commitment made by Law Minister Anisul Huq at its review meeting for not taking any revenge and to recommend scrapping some rules of laws, including Information Communication and Technology Act and Digital Security Act, which may damage the image of the state.