Police officials are not above the law | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 14, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:50 AM, January 14, 2021

Editorial

Police officials are not above the law

Higher authorities cannot absolve themselves of responsibility for corruption of those under them

We must applaud the recent observation from the High Court which stated that "a handful corrupt police officials who have been tasked with the duty to protect and preserve the life of innocent people of this country became errant…", asking "how will the general people repose faith on the police force and find the police station as their safe place to register their grievance?" This observation was made in reference to the wrongful arrest and incarceration of Md Arman, who spent five years in jail for a crime he didn't commit.

What is important to note here is that the HC did not just limit its observation to the errant police officials in question. It added, "…their higher authority has miserably failed to hold these corrupt, defiant police officials accountable for which they cannot absolve their responsibility", specifically stating that in the case of Arman, the IGP in question "cannot skirt around his responsibility on such a planned, deliberate and wrongful act".

While the observations were delivered as part of the 39-page full text verdict on Md Arman's unlawful incarceration, we hope that the implications for the police force will go far beyond this one case. The HC has clearly outlined a fundamental issue that is rotting the Bangladesh Police from within, and fast depleting public trust and confidence in our nation's law enforcers—a blatant abuse of power that allows certain police officials to hold themselves above the law, even while "enforcing" it, and use their influence to engage in corrupt and unscrupulous activities. And although the HC has pointed out that this does not mean the entire police force is to blame, it is clear that we can also no longer shift the blame onto rogue officials without acknowledging the failure of the higher authorities to hold these officials to account. As long as they choose to look away, they too are complicit in these crimes.

It is no secret that arbitrary arrest and detention, along with custodial torture, is a common occurrence in Bangladesh. As recently as January 3, police were accused of the custodial torture and subsequent death of 30-year-old law student Rejaul Karim Reja in Barisal. The stereotype of the violent, corrupt police officer from Bangladesh is of great concern, not just for the higher authorities of the police force but also for the government and the entire nation. At this point, simply taking disciplinary action is not enough. There must be a cultural shift from within the police force itself that expels such abusive and immoral practices from within, and all such corrupt officials must be tried for breaking the laws that they are meant to uphold. Without radical change, it is the marginalised citizens of this country like Md Arman who will continue to suffer and have their human rights violated, with little recourse to justice.

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