Ending custodial death: A step forward

11 September, 2020 12:00 AM printer

We are happy to learn that three police officers along with two of their informants have been given exemplary punishment by a Dhaka court on Wednesday while delivering first ever verdict under the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act 2013. The three police officers were given life sentences and the two informants were given seven years imprisonment in a case over death of a youth named Ishtiaque Hossain Jony in police custody.

This is a historic verdict not only because it is the first of its kind, but also because it came in a time when instances of police excesses keep mounting and hair-raising instances of police brutality are occurring in regular interventions. Therefore, while we welcome this landmark verdict, we must remember that this is just the beginning of our long quest for justice for ever-escalating incidents of custodial torture and death.

There has been a total absence of fear or respect for law and human rights in the minds of uniformed perpetrators. For instance, the fault of Jony was that he protested harassment of girls by police informants in a social gathering. Subsequently, the informants called in police officers who took Jony to police station and beaten him to death. At the height of their cruelty, one of the convicted police officers jumped on Jony’s chest and spat on his face when he asked for water.

This is but one example. This has been going on for years and is the main reason for policemen’s forbidding public image. This kind of abuse, like many other abuses of the police, seems to be intensifying as the conventional laws of the country failed to hold errant policemen accountable. However, in order to do a course correction, the government enacted the aforementioned law in 2013. We hope the first verdict under the law will deliver the message to members of law enforcement agencies that the culture of impunity for men in uniform is going to end. If law enforcers refuse to abide by the laws and social norms, they themselves will find themselves in prisons.

Besides, all necessary caution should be taken to ensure that members of law enforcement agencies cannot misuse their authoritative power to satisfy their personal interest or to settle personal scores. Apart from strict enforcement of the law, the government should establish a monitoring cell in each police station to keep tabs on abuses and corruption.