Published on 12:00 AM, August 16, 2020


Murders inside a juvenile correction centre

Lack of accountability, state negligence are responsible

We are dumbfounded by the murders of three teenaged boys at the Jashore juvenile correction centre allegedly by several staffers and senior inmates on Thursday.  

A grisly account of torture that led to the deaths of these boys has been given by injured inmates who had also been tortured, so grievously that they had to be hospitalised. According to their accounts, the boys' senior inmates, at the behest of the officials, started pulling the hands of the victims through a grill while the officials beat them mercilessly. The officials then handed over the beatings to the senior inmates resulting in the boys becoming unconscious. Three of those boys never regained consciousness.

It chillingly resembles the brutal killing of Abrar Fahad, a Buet student at the hands of Chhatra League members in the university's dormitory. Again it is a frightening demonstration of the sadistic inclinations of those who enjoy both power and impunity.

This particular incident has come to light because three young boys are dead. One wonders whether this episode of brutal torture would have been made public had they somehow lived. It is a given that juvenile inmates are supposed to be protected while in custody and this is the state's responsibility. But these murders and the extent of the injuries of the other boys give ample indication of the level of abuse by officials and other older inmates that take place within the confines of the institution. What is even more frightening is the secrecy and lack of accountability within these institutions that have led to these deaths.

Police have arrested five people, including the superintendent and even a counsellor and others—all responsible for the welfare of the boys. Ten others have been taken for interrogation. The social welfare ministry has suspended one of the officials for negligence of duty and formed a probe committee to investigate which is the minimum they are expected to do in such a horrific case of coldblooded murder. But we must ask what kind of supervision was exercised by the ministry over its institution that such inhuman treatment could be meted out to wards by those in charge of taking care of them? This could not have been a one off case of torture but rather part of a regular practice, the details of which we hope will come out from the investigation.

The media has reported many times about physical abuse of juveniles at these centres. Human rights defenders have protested and appealed to the state to bring about reform. And despite Bangladesh being one of the earliest signatories of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) that specifically states that children accused of crimes "be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child's sense of dignity and worth" these incidents of physical torture and even death take place.

Are we to believe that arrests and if we are lucky, punishment of these murderers will take place only after children are brutally murdered? Or will the ministry concerned initiate urgent reforms within the system and these institutions so that these children are treated with dignity as all children deserve, that they are provided with basic needs of health, nutrition, education and most of all, that they do not live in constant fear of being tortured or killed because they are at the mercy of officials or other inmates.