The High Court yesterday formed a committee to probe the allegations of abuse and mismanagement at a juvenile correction centre in Gazipur, where 20 teenage boys inflicted severe wounds on themselves in protest.
Aged between 14 and 18, the boys gashed their foreheads, arms and wrists on Tuesday night to protest the torture on them by supervisor-in-charge Anwarul Kabir at the Gazipur Juvenile Development Centre, Additional Deputy Commissioner (general) Shahnawaz Dilruba Khan said.
"They found no other way to protest. They want removal of the supervisor-in-charge," Shahnawaz told The Daily Star.
The injured were rushed to Tongi Government Hospital where their wounds were stitched up. They are now at the centre.
Deputy Attorney General Bishwojit Roy drew the HC's attention to a newspaper report on the horrific incident.
The court then formed the committee and asked it to confirm in a week as to who were responsible for the torture at the correction centre.
The committee is comprised of three members -- the director general of the social welfare department, and the deputy commissioner and the superintendent of police in Gazipur.
SC lawyer Asaduzzaman told the court that the state had the responsibility to ensure security of the detained juveniles.
Sources at the correction centre claimed that the incident happened after the centre had reprimanded an inmate's brother for giving him two bottles of cough syrup while police were driving them back to the centre from the Dhaka Judge's Court.
The HC bench of Justice Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque and Justice ABM Altaf Hossain also issued a suo moto rule asking the committee to find out how a boy could commit substance abuse in police custody.
It also directed the authorities to explain in two weeks why their negligence in stopping the torture on those teenagers should not be declared illegal, and why they should not be directed to take steps to address the matter.
The court fixed March 3 for hearing the rule and passing order.
The secretaries of social welfare, and women and children affairs ministries, DG of the social welfare department, deputy inspector general of prisons, DC and SP of Gazipur and superintendent of the correction centre have been made respondents to the rule.
Besides, the district administration has formed a committee of five members headed by ADC Shahnawaz to investigate the matter and submit a report within the next seven working days.
She visited the centre yesterday afternoon.
Quoting the inmates, she said the centre authorities had assaulted the boys and also mentally tortured them for not complying with the rules.
During the visit, the inmates told her that following the incident they got access to the higher authorities to tell them about the torture by supervisor-in-charge Anwarul Kabir and so he would soon get transferred.
An investigation should be done to know whether the centre authorities were nonchalant regarding the wellbeing of the inmates, said former inspector general of police M Enamul Hoque over the phone.
"We have for years been trying to improve the situation at the centre. Sexual abuse is rampant there making it necessary to probe why the juveniles are not being given proper counselling. It should be investigated whether corruption like embezzlement of money meant for the children is what caused the incident," he said.
"We have heard of the children being underfed," said Geeta Chakrabarty, senior deputy director of children's rights wing of Ain o Salish Kendra.
After a visit to the centre, Kazi Riazul Haque, chief of the children's rights wing of the National Human Rights Commission, said the injured inmates described to him the physical and mental torture by the authorities.
"We really have to listen carefully to their concerns," he added.