2003 Report by the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Theo van Boven


158. By letter dated 2 September 2002, the Special Rapporteur advised the Government that he had received information on the following individual case.

159. Badal reportedly died in police custody at the Kapasia Police Station in Gazipur District. It was reported that he was arrested by a Sub-Inspector of the Detective Branch (DB) on 8 May 2002 in Boroipara, Narayanganj, Dhaka. Two other young men from the area, known as Jahangir and Badal Shikdar, and a 13-year-old boy, Johurul Islam, were also reportedly arrested. The three men and the boy were reportedly detained in connection with a case filed under the Repression of Violence Against Women and Children Act of 2000 concerning the rape and murder of a nineyear- old girl. The four of them were allegedly presented before the court on 9 May 2002, and sent back to jail. The minor was held in detention for two more days, during which he was allegedly beaten. The detainees were reportedly blindfolded, and interrogated under duress. Badal was allegedly subjected to electric shocks.On 17 May 2002, Badal's condition became critical and he was transferred to the Dhaka Central Jail for treatment by the medical officer of Narayanganj District Jail and later to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital, where he died soon after being admitted to the Emergency Department. The Metropolitan Magistrate's inquest report allegedly mentioned that Badal's body bore only three injuries, and that he had a high fever and a headache. The Head of the Dhaka Medical College Forensic Department was believed to have been dissatisfied with the report, emphasizing that Badal's nails were blue. Police claimed that he was asking for drugs, which he was denied. As a result, he died. The First Class Magistrates Court in Narayanganj court ordered a Judicial Inquiry into this case after Badal’s mother filed a complaint on 19 May 2002. However, she later withdrew the complaint allegedly in exchange for money from the DB police. The Public Prosecutor of the Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate Court reportedly stated that there were no legal provisions allowing for the withdrawal of a murder case under the Code of Criminal Procedure, and since murder is considered as an offence against the State, it is therefore his responsibility to deal with the case. 160. By letter dated 17 October 2002, the Special Rapporteur reminded the Government of a number of cases transmitted in 2001 regarding which no reply had been received.

Urgent appeals

161. On 26 March 2002, the Special Rapporteur sent a joint urgent appeal with the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the Chairman-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of Bahauddin Nasim, special assistant to Sheikh Hasina, the leader of the opposition in the parliament and President of Awami League. He was detained at Dhaka International Airport on 28 February 2002 while waiting to take a flight to the United States in order to receive treatment for a heart condition. He was accused of “attempting to tarnish Bangladesh’s image abroad” because he had in his possession books and CDs that contained images of torture against minorities. He was reportedly also accused of having carried out "terrorist attacks". He was blinfolded and transferred to the Dhaka cantonment, where he was interrogated by the Joint Interrogation Team of the Bangladesh Army Defense Force Intelligence (DGFI). He was reportedly blinfolded for six consecutive days at the Dhaka cantonment and detained in a dirty cell with no bed, and was allegedly hanged by a rope tied to his wrists from a rotating ceiling fan and beaten on the knees with an iron hammer during this time. He was allegedly subjected to electric shocks, cold water was poured through his nostrils, and he was severely beaten. He was reportedly not allowed to eat or sleep during his detention. Following a writ petition, a Bench of the High Court Division of the Supreme Court ordered the authorities to arrange for medical treatment to be provided to him and access to his lawyers.

162. On 27 March 2002, the Special Rapporteur sent a joint urgent appeal with the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the Chairman-Rapporteur of the Working Group on arbitrary detention on behalf of Dr Mohiuddin Alamgir, who had reportedly been arrested at Dhaka Zia International Airport on 15 March, for investigation of allegations that he had instigated government officials and employees to join a rally against the then Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) government of Begum Khaleda Zia, in early 1996. On 24 March, he reportedly testified that while he was in police custody three masked men had beaten him with lathi (bamboo sticks) and glass bottles filled with water, in particular on his buttocks, feet and other muscular parts of his body. He was allegedly not allowed to take his medicine for diabetes. The magistrate is believed not to have ordered an investigation.

163. By letters dated 24 May and 2 July 2002, the Government replied that he had been arrested on 15 March 2002 and sent to the Dhaka Central Jail on 22 March, where he was placed under detention for 30 days. Dr. Alamgir had been held in police custody for four days as orderd by the court. Various cases had been brought against him, including a case of sedition on 8 April 2002 for instigating government employees to join an anti- Government rally, a case from September 2001 for abetting in an attempted murder, and four embezzlement cases. Several other government officials were also charged with anti-State activities in the same series of incidents. The Government assured the Special Rapporteur that Dr Alamgir had not been subjected to any ill-treatment. The doctors of the jail hospital carried out regular check- ups, and he was allowed to meet regularly with his lawyers and family members. By letter dated 28 November 2002, the Government further informed the Special Rapporteur that he was released on bail on 18 September 2002. It added that he was exercising his right to legal recourse.

164. On 25 April 2002, the Special Rapporteur sent a joint urgent appeal with the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the Chairman-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of Bahauddin Nasim and Dr Mohiuddin Alamgir on behalf of whom the Special Rapporteurs intervened on 26 and 27 March 2002 respectively (see above). Bahauddin Nasim was reportedly in poor health as a result of torture to which he was allegedly subjected during his detention and required urgent examination by a medical board. It was also reported that the High Court ordered the police on 3 April to disclose where, and under what legal authority, they had held Bahauddin Nasim for seven days on remand and in their custody. It also ordered that a new medical board be set up to examine Bahauddin Nasim. On 8 April 2002 a "stay order" was issued by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, following an appeal by the Attorney General on behalf of the Government. The "stay order" prevents the High Court from carrying out its directive and Bahauddin Nasim's lawyers are seeking its withdrawal. Dr Mohiuddin Alamgir was also allegedly being denied medical attention and was the target of an attempted attack by a man armed with a knife in his cell at Dhaka Central Jail on 14 April 2002. On 24 March, he allegedly testified before the High Court that he had been tortured.

165. By letter dated 28 May 2002, the Government responded that Bahauddin Nasim had been taken into custody at Zia International Airport on 28 February 2002, after US$ 6600 had been found on him and a number of booklets damaging to state interests. Two cases were lodged against him. He was produced before the court the following day and held in police custody for five days. Thereafter, he was taken to the Dhaka Central Jail. On 23 March 2002, he was produced before the Metropolitan Session Judge Court, where he made allegations of torture. Physicians at the Dhaka Central Jail had examined him earlier and had found no evidence of torture or illness. In jail, he was provided with medical assistance, including medication, and was allowed to meet regularly with his lawyers and family members.

166. On 26 August 2002, the Special Rapporteur sent an urgent appeal on behalf of Kamal Ahmed Majunder, a former member of parliament of the opposition party, the Awami League. He had reportedly been held in Dhaka since 21 or 22 August 2002 under section 54 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which allows detention for further questioning without an arrest warrant.

167. On 24 October 2002, the Special Rapporteur sent a joint urgent appeal with the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression on behalf of Saber Hossain Chowdhury, Political Secretary to the leader Sheigk Hasina of the Awami League, who had reportedly been arrested on 20 October 2002 at Dhaka Airport, and on behalf of Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, member of parliament and former Minister of Health, who had reportedly been arrested by the army at his residence in Dhaka. As both were allegedly arrested under section 54 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the police was allowed to detain him without an arrest warrant. The men were allegedly held incommunicado in an undisclosed location until the evening of 21 October 2002 when they were produced before a court in Dhaka. However, it was reported that they were sent back to police custody for further interrogation and had not since then been allowed to see a lawyer or their families.

168. By letters dated 28 and 29 November 2002, the Government informed the Special Rapporteur that Saber Hossain Chowdhury and Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim had been released on bail on 20 and 28 November 2002, respective ly. The cases brought against them were under investigation at the time of writing. The Government further reassured the Special Rapporteur that they were able to exercise their right to legal recourse.

169. On 30 Ocober 2002, the Special Rapporteur sent a joint urgent appeal with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions regarding more than 3,000 people who were reportedly arrested in a joint operation code-named Operation Clean Heart to crack down on criminals, in which nearly 40,000 army troops were said to be taking part. This operation was reported to have begun on 17 October 2002. Checkpoints had been set up in many interdistrict routes where army personnel stopped, questionned and searched vehicles and performed body searches. In cities, house-to-house searches had reportedly been conducted in some areas, and occupants had been picked up for questioning. Some of them had returned home within hours, but others had allegedly not been seen for days. Some of those released had reportedly been sent to the hospital with severe injuries, in particular caused by beatings while in army custody. It was also believed that at least 10 people, whose bodies were allegedly bearing marks of torture, had died in unknown circumstances while in police custody. Fears were expressed that the armed forces used excessive force during the raids and subjected a number of people to ill-treatment during interrogation.

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small logo   This report has been published by Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights on August 2, 2005.