People are gradually losing their trust and confidence in law enforcement agencies due to their “continued involvement in criminal activities,” including custodial deaths and disappearance of detainees, rights activists, academics and lawyers have said.
Speaking at a programme yesterday, they said law enforcers should be held accountable to uphold the rule of law.
The Citizen Platform Committee for the Protection of Fundamental Rights organised the discussion on “Rule of Law and the Role of Law Enforcement Agencies” at Dhaka Reporters Unity in the capital.
Participants stressed the need for ensuring good democratic practices to check arbitrariness and breaches by law enforcement agencies.
Prof Ridwanul Hoque, who teaches law at Dhaka University, said the rule of law demanded that every government agency be held accountable for their misconduct or breach of law.
“But the demand for setting up an institution, like an independent commission, to investigate allegations of breaches by law enforcement agencies has long remained pending and unattended in the country,” he said, delivering the keynote speech.
In the present context of Bangladesh, the rising practice of torture, detention without warrant for interrogation and inquiry and refusal to register complaints of serious crimes like rape, abduction, forced disappearance and murder remain a big concern, he noted.
Syeda Rizwana Hasan, a leading environmental attorney and chief executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, said the nation lost its moral turpitude as people these days no longer wanted to protest and show courage against any misdeed fearing retribution.
People simply vanish and no one knows their whereabouts, she said, “It cannot go on like this.”
Rizwana, whose husband and businessman Abu Bakar Siddique had been kidnapped three years ago but was later freed, said people who returned after being victim of enforced disappearance did not want to talk about it.
These returnees still feel threatened because incidents of such disappearance continue to happen, she added.
According to rights activist Nur Khan Liton, accountability and transparency remain absent in a country where people's right to vote is no longer considered as an issue. “In such a situation, we have to continue movement and fight against misdeeds to uphold the rule of law.”
A new trend is emerging that after picking up individuals, law enforcement agencies are quickly labelling them with different identities. As a result, others choose to remain silent, he said.
According to Nur, law enforcers not only involve themselves in their “misdeeds,” they engage other state components as well in such activities.
Gonoshasthaya Kendra founder Zafrullah Chowdhury said formulation of an independent commission could be effective to make sure that law enforcers did not engage in criminal activities.
Moderating the discussion, Supreme Court lawyer and rights activist Jyotirmoy Barua said new laws must be made to replace the age-old ones as old laws were not providing enough protection to the citizens.
Supreme Court lawyer Subrata Chowdhury and Prof Asif Nazrul of DU also spoke.