According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The UN Convention against Torture defines ‘torture’ as an act ‘by which severe pain or suffering is intentionally inflicted on a person, notably when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or with the consent of a public official. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful action’. Torture is used for purposes such as obtaining information or statements, or as a means of punishment or discrimination. In November 2013, the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Bill was passed in the Parliament, which was previously introduced in 2009 by an Awami League Member of Parliament as a private member’s Bill. After a prolonged struggle for the enactment of an anti torture law, finally the term ‘torture’ has been criminalized in Bangladesh following the obligations of being a state party to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, in 1998.Torture is expressly prohibited in Article 35 (5) of the Constitution: “No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or treatment,” however, before the 2013 torture law, there was no express prohibition of torture in statutory laws in Bangladesh. Torture has become so endemic that once a person is arrested the assumption is that he will be tortured. It is so because of the impunity accompanying torture. It is used as a tool by the law enforcement agencies to extract a ‘statement’ and considered as routine work.
Odhikar recalls that torture is a serious violation of human rights and it cannot be justified under any circumstances. Despite the claim of ‘zero tolerance’ on torture, the Government has not taken steps or effective measures to curtail torture and other forms of custodial violence and acts of impunity by law enforcement officers. It is hoped that the new torture prevention law will play an effective role in controlling such an offence. Odhikar urges the Government of Bangladesh to combat impunity for torture and provide justice to the victims by also implementing a comprehensive anti-torture policy. In particular the Government is encouraged to make the eradication of torture and the punishment of all perpetrators of torture a specific policy goal, effective implementation of the anti-torture law.
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