In a landmark judgement, a Dhaka court last year awarded life sentences to three policemen who tortured a youth to death in police custody. The 2014-custodial torture met up with the justice after six years, but a query by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on the blazing rights violation case is yet to be responded by police.
This is just an example of how reluctant the cops are to the commission as its 36 rights violation queries, submitted from September 2019 to December 2020, are awaiting answers from police, according to the NHRC annual report-2020.
NHRC Chairman Nasima Begum will hand over the report to President Abdul Hamid on Tuesday afternoon.
In the meantime, Mostafa Kamal Uddin, senior secretary to the Public Security Division, said they sent a letter to Inspector General of Police (IGP) Dr Benazir Ahmed, seeking a report on the 36 complaints of rights violation. A copy was also sent to the NHRC. But the Police Headquarters is yet to make any response.
'They laugh at us'
The queries from the present NHRC apart, in between 2012 and 2019, the home ministry received 83 complaints on human rights violation against law enforcement agencies. But, no acceptable answer from the police has come into view yet.
The complaints include 14 custodial deaths, 12 deaths in gunfights, 25 incidents of forced disappearance, 18 incidents of tortures, and three cases of oppression of children and women.
The Police Headquarters has so far submitted a report on only 12 queries, but the human rights commission rejected the report after finding it unsatisfactory. Then, another letter was sent to the police, but they did not respond.
Kazi Reazul Hoque, former chairman of the NHRC, told TBS that during his tenure, he handed over two reports on rights violations with separate memoranda, seeking remedy.
"During my tenure, we at an international conference presented a report, saying police do not answer our queries on rights violations, the people present there were flabbergasted and laughed at us," he added.
Exploiting a legal loophole
When asked about police not responding to their queries, Kazi Arfan Ashik, director (admin and finance) at the NHRC, "We do not know the exact reason. All we can do is seek reports on rights violations. But there is no legal obligation to submit such reports within a specific timeframe."
The commission cannot investigate any complaints against police and other law enforcement agencies even if it wants. That is why the draft of the amended law was sent to the law ministry, he said, adding that the NHRC already had a meeting with the law minister to this end.
The commission will also be able to formulate a policy as well after the relevant law is amended, Ashiq said.
'NHRC always misses Bangabhaban train'
"We always miss the Bangabhaban train as the commission could not submit a single report to the president on time," an NHRC official preferring anonymity told TBS.
As per the NHRC law, the commission has to submit an annual report on its overall activities of the previous year by 30 March every year and hand it over to the president. But it has never been able to do so within the deadline since its inception.
"We prepared reports of 2019 and 2020 on time but could not publish. We have already done necessary work to publish the annual report-2021 and will do it within the deadline," the NHRC director said.
NHRC Chairman Nasima Begum said, "The commission is very sincere about reporting complaints against police and other law enforcement agencies. The rate of sending reports is now more than before."
When asked about why police do not respond to the NHRC's queries regarding human rights violations, Police Headquarters Additional DIG Md Haider Ali Khan and Assistant Inspector General of Media and Public Relations of police Kamruzzaman declined to make any comment.