On the 10th September, 2009 the Torture and Custodial Death (Prohibition) Bill, 2009 was placed before parliament. This bill attempts to bring Bangladeshi law in conformity with the international law. This bill has come to the parliament by way of a private member¡¦s bill proposed by Saber Hossain Chowdhury, one of the members for Dhaka city.
The Asian Human Rights Commission congratulates the Parliament of Bangladesh for placing the bill in its agenda as this bill has created the possibility of making torture a crime in the country punishable as a serious offence. It will also make custodial deaths punishable with life imprisonment.
The Asian Human Rights Commission worked in close collaboration with the Private Member in the drafting of this law. This draft has incorporated the most developed conceptions of law on this matter and deals with some of the more difficult problems of investigations and prosecutions on torture in the Bangladesh context.
The global community is deeply committed to the promotion of the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and for the elimination of torture globally. The experiences of many countries that have already had similar laws for a long period now are valuable examples for Bangladesh. The successful adoption of this law in the country will enhance the respect for the rule of law and protect the rights of the people, particularly relating to fair trial.
The Bangladesh Awami League ratified the CAT on 5th October 1998. One of the requirements of the CAT is that the ratifying state must enact an enabling law to make torture declared as a serious crime recognized in the country. This has not been done so far and this requirement will be fulfilled if the proposed bill, now placed before parliament, is enacted as soon as possible.
In the past there had been various objections to treating torture and custodial deaths as serious crimes in Bangladesh. Some have argued that Bangladesh being a third world country requires the use of third degree methods for the control of crime and for dealing with serious political opponents to ruling regimes. However, the adoption of such narrow views will only denigrate Bangladesh before the eyes of its own people as well as the international community.
The development of democracy and rule of law requires that the primitive methods of dealing with criminal investigations should be displaced. Experience has clearly demonstrated that allowing the use of torture leads to the abuse of the powers. The police and military often use these powers for unjust enrichment by way of bribery and corruption and also to suppress freedom of expression and association.
The development of a proper criminal investigation system depends on the possibility of proper inquiries being conducted into crimes without brutal methods such as torture and cruel and inhuman treatment.
The presentation of this bill before parliament should provide an opportunity for an enlightened discussion on all matters relating to justice in Bangladesh. We hope that all persons of good will and all civil society leaders will take an active part in the promotion of this proposed bill so that both the public and the civil service will be able to appreciate the benefits of this law.
The Asian Human Rights Commission urges all law makers of Bangladesh to take an active part in the passing of this law as soon as possible, thus providing the people of the country the benefit of a law that they are very much entitled to.