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Civil bodies express concern

Torture, death in jail, police custody rising alarmingly

24 January 2023


Syed Shemul Parvez :
Tortures, deaths in jail and police custody are increasing alarmingly across the country. Recently, two inmates died in Kashimpur High Security Central Jail in Gazipur on the same day. Law enforcement organisations blame each other for such deaths.
Jail authorities claim that most of the remanded convicts come to jail in ill condition. The police authority also denies allegations of torture in custody.
Though authorities claim that most of the deaths in prison or custody as 'natural', in many cases the families of the victims, human rights organisations and even the general public express doubts over this claim.
Human rights activists say post-mortem should be mandatory in every case of death in prison or police custody.
According to the Law and Arbitration Center (ASC) data, 328 inmates died in prison from January 2018 to July last year. Among them, the number of sentenced prisoners was 123 and the number of detainees was 205.
ASC data say, 74 people died in 2018, 58 people in 2019, 75 people in 2020, 81 people in 2021 and 40 prisoners died till July 2022. Most of them were victims of torture. Many prisoners died who were over 70 years old.
Apart from this, police claim suicide cases are also happening in prisons.
There is no official statement from the prison authorities on these issues. However, if the prisoners or convicts who are ill and die after being taken to the nearest hospital, a death certificate is issued by the hospital authority. Those death certificates mention old age or heart failure as causes of deaths. In some cases, death certificates mention diabetes, hypertension, kidneys or liver complications as causes.
On December 17 last year, Dhaka Central Jail prisoner Idris Ali Molla (62) fell ill and died on the way to Dhaka Medical College & Hospital. His death certificate cited old age as the cause. An accused named Syed Moshabber Hossain (52) died in DMCH on December 26. His death certificate states that he died due to high blood pressure and complications due to prolonged illness.
On January 1, Mofiz Babu (62), a prisoner of Dhaka Central Jail, died at DMCH. His death certificate states the same as the cause of death.   According to sources, on the night of February 25, 2021, writer Mushtaq Ahmed, arrested under the Digital Security Act, died in the Kashimpur High Security Central Jail in Gazipur after being incarcerated there for ten months. His post-mortem report stated that he died of cardiac arrest.
When Zahirul died in Barisal Central Jail on March 13 last year, prison authorities said he was ill. However, his elder brother Ali Akbar told the media, "After the PBI people arrested Zahirul, he died in the jail as he was beaten  badly without taking him to the court."
When Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) was asked whether it submitted the report or statistics of deaths to the government, the human rights organizer and also executive director of ASK, Noor Khan Liton, told the New Nation that they generally published it on their website and also informed the media.
Noor Khan Liton added that they normally urge the government to stand beside victims who feel insecure facing threats from powerful perpetrators.
He said that the reasons of deaths in jail were prolonged mental stress, social pressure, prison's crowded and unhealthy environment, heart attack, and other serious diseases without immediate and timely treatment. Besides, many died due to torture during the interrogation in police custody after arrest.
In cases of deaths in jail and police custody, postmortem is mandatory, and a committee should be constituted to conduct the postmortem, Noor Khan Liton added.
This human rights organizer also said that if an ordinary prisoner became sick in prison, he was shown negligence. When his condition deteriorated, only then they would take measures.
In this regard, Farzana Rahman, professor and chairman of criminology department of University of Dhaka told the New Nation that a special law was introduced in Act-2013 to prevent the custodial deaths, but it is not being properly implemented.
While interrogating, the police need to ensure presence of a health officer so that the accused instantly gets health support. In this way, custodial deaths may be reduced, Dr. Farzana added.
When the New Nation tried to contact Brigadier General ASM Anisul Haque, Inspector General of Prisons, for his comment on this issue over mobile phone, he could not be reached.
Deputy Commissioner of Media and Public Relations Department of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Faroq Hossain said that there is no scope for torturing an accused after his arrest or when he is taken in remand.
The Prevention of Custodial Deaths Act-2013 stipulates no investigating officer can torture the remanded accused in the name of interrogation.

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