Constitutional expert Dr Shahdeen Malik yesterday said people are being placed on remand every day through magistrate courts, which is tantamount to violation of their fundamental rights cited in the constitution.
Remand of an accused is granted for gleaning information about him or her, he said at a discussion marking International Day in Support of Victims of Torture in the capital.
“On the other hand, article 35 of the constitution guarantees that ‘no person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself’,” he added.
Moulik Odhikar Shurokkha Committee, a platform for rights activists, arranged the discussion on “Responsibility in Stopping Torture” at Dhaka Reporters Unity.
“Constitutionally and from the perspective of fundamental rights, if police ask me something about an offense -- whether I did it... the constitution gives me the right to not say a thing,” said Dr Malik.
“This may sound ‘very theoretical or utopian’ but such words are written in the constitution,” he said. “[The country’s] entire criminal justice system is operating in constant violation of fundamental rights cited in the constitution.”
Later, talking to this newspaper over phone, the eminent jurist also said in most cases police interrogation in remand often does not follow SC guidelines to stop torture in custody.
As per the SC guideline, interrogation during remand should be conducted in presence of relative or friend of the accused, so they can witness whether the accused is facing torture, he said.
In such case, transparent glass should be used to observe interrogation from outside. However, there are instances where people could not meet their dear ones taken by detectives for days, he further said.
Dr Malik said at one end countrymen are being deprived of their fundamental rights, while on the other, the government is busy claiming credit for making progress and development.
Speakers at the discussion demanded that the government take adequate measures to stop torture in custody, saying torture is prohibited in law and it cannot be justified under any circumstances.
They stressed the need for proper enforcement of the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act, 2013 to this end.
People’s rights after being taken to custody should be ensured, said rights activist Nur Khan Liton.
Incidents of torture can be avoided by following the SC guidelines properly, said Prof Asif Nazrul of Dhaka University’s Law department.
Incidents of custodial torture are frequent. However, instances of any government agency member being punished for such offense is rare, he said.
Shirin Haque, one of the organisers, said their aim of arranging the event was to commemorate the day’s message that speaks of creating awareness on torture among people.
Rights activist Sara Hossain, and Limon -- a Jhalakathi man who faced brutal tortured in the hands of Rapid Action Battalion members -- also spoke at the event.