Human Rights Watch has said Bangladesh authorities should investigate recent allegations of enforced disappearances and torture including by police members of the Detective Branch (DB) of police.
“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, “Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said on Friday.
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.”
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,” asserting that “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.