US worried at extrajudicial killing and judiciary politicisation in Bangladesh

The United States expressed serious concern over the failure to fully investigate extra-judicial killings by security forces, including several deaths in custody of alleged criminals detained by Rab. US also expressed serious concern over the custodial deaths, politicisation of the judiciary, discrimination against women, and violence against women and children. The concern was expressed in 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington on 8 April, 2011.
The report said that security forces committed extrajudicial killings and were responsible for custodial deaths, torture, and arbitrary arrest and detention. ‘Some members of the security forces acted with impunity. Prison conditions at times were life-threatening, lengthy pre-trial detention continued to be a problem, and authorities infringed on citizens’ privacy rights,’ it said.

Although the constitution prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment, security forces including the Rapid Action Battalion and police frequently employed torture and severe physical and psychological abuse during arrests and interrogations, the report said. It said, ‘Abuse consisted of threats, beatings, and the use of electric shock.’

Quoting human rights organisations, it stated that security forces tortured at least 22 persons in 2010. The government rarely charges, convicts, or punishes those responsible and a climate of impunity allowed such abuses by RAB and the police to continue, the report observed.

It said the government limited freedom of speech and of the press, self-censorship continued, and security forces harassed journalists. The government curbed freedom of assembly, and politically motivated violence remained a problem, it said. ‘Official corruption and related impunity continued,’ the report mentioned.

It said that discrimination against women, and violence against women and children remained serious problems as did discrimination against persons with disabilities and against persons based on their sexual orientation. Trafficking in persons remained a serious problem.

Violence against religious and ethnic minorities still occurred although many government and civil society leaders stated that these acts often had political or economic motivations and could not be attributed only to religious belief or affiliation, said the report.

According to the report, limits on worker rights and child labour remained problems. The report said an increasingly politicised judiciary exacerbated problems in an already overwhelmed judicial system and constrained access to justice for members of opposition parties.

The law provides for an independent judiciary but in practice, a longstanding temporary provision of the constitution placed the executive in charge of the lower courts, judicial appointments, and compensation for judicial officials.

Despite ostensible separation of the judiciary from the executive, the report said that the political authority made judicial appointments to higher courts and allegedly influenced many judicial decisions on politically sensitive cases, including decisions regarding bail and detention for political opponents of the government in 2010.

On April 11, the Awami League government appointed 17 additional judges to the High Court triggering protests from the pro-opposition Supreme Court Bar Association leaders, the report mentioned.

On September 26, 2010, the government appointed Justice ABM Khairul Haque as the new chief justice, superseding two senior members of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, the report said adding that opposition leaders criticised the appointment, stating that Khairul was chosen because of his perceived loyalty to the ruling party.

According to a set timeline, Khairul Haque was scheduled to retire as chief justice in May and he would assume responsibility for heading a constitutionally mandated caretaker government that would be responsible for conducting the next round of parliamentary elections, the report mentioned.

About prison conditions, the report says that prison system conditions remained life-threatening at times due to overcrowding, inadequate facilities, and lack of proper sanitation.

Human rights observers stated that these conditions contributed to custodial deaths and unlike in the previous year, there were no accounts of security forces holding detainees in temporary or military detention facilities, the report said.

According to right organisation Odhikar, 46 persons died in prison and 109 died in the custody of police and other security forces in 2010, it mentioned.

It said that the existing prison population at year’s end was 69,650, or more than over 200 per cent of the official prison capacity of 29,240. Of the entire prison population, approximately one-third of the detainees had been convicted. The rest were either awaiting trial or detained for investigation.

Due to the severe backlog of cases, individuals awaiting trial often spent more time in jail than if they had been convicted and served a maximum sentence, the report said.

In most cases, prisoners slept in shifts because of the overcrowding and did not have adequate bathroom facilities, it stated.

In 2010, the government ordered the release of 1,000 prisoners to help ease overcrowding, the report said adding that some human rights groups expressed concern over the methods used to determine which prisoners qualified for the release. It stated that in general the government did not permit prison visits by independent human rights monitors, including the International Committee of the Red Cross. This news taken from the New Age

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