Bangladesh’s ordinary people, for whom police is the most visible and powerful presence of the state in the rural and urban settings, pay them bribes on a daily basis, says an Asia-based human rights body.
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in a statement on Thursday said that Bangladesh’s law-enforcement agents had a reputation for abusing authority through coercive means.
“They (police) are and have been the hired thugs of all the ruling regimes. Policing in the country is an industry of producing victims of torture and fabrication of criminal charges against civilians and political opponents since long.”
Founded in 1986, AHRC is an independent, non-governmental body, which seeks to promote greater awareness and realisation of human rights in the Asian region, and to mobilise Asian and international public opinion to obtain relief and redress for the victims of human rights violations.
It was founded by a prominent group of jurists and human rights activists in Asia and serves to promote civil and political rights, as well as economic, social and cultural rights.
In its annual report, The State of Human Rights in Ten Asian Nations – 2011, the rights body said that corruption had replaced the chain of command within police. The constant failure of police to credibly investigate crimes was the single largest impediment within the criminal justice administration in the country, it said.
“People pay bribes to the police for registering a General Dairy entry and complaints; to prevent officers from torturing or ill-treating them; for inclusion or exclusion of a person’s name from the lists of accused or witnesses in a complaint and the like,” the report read.
“They pay police for arresting a suspect, while the same suspect pays police to obtain a release from custody. Complainants pay police for bringing a charge against the respondent in the police investigation report while the respondent pays for dropping the charge. People pay bribes to police to collect and preserve evidence in criminal investigations – known as ‘alamot’ in Bangladesh – until the evidence is handed over to the courts.”
In cases of unnatural death, if the body were to be recovered and sent to a public hospital for autopsy, the relatives or those interested in the case would bribe police for transporting the body. Without bribing, nobody could expect police to undertake a proper inquest. “Equal amounts or perhaps more has to be paid at the hospital as well. This is the case in rape charges as well.”
“Any hawker, from those who sell peanuts or candy squatting in a footpath or moving around in streets or public parks, must bribe police routinely, failing which police would fabricate false charges against the hawker. Likewise, the illegal drug-peddlers or arms dealers bribe police to sustain their business,” the report said.
The officers responsible for maintaining road traffic demanded and accepted bribes from drivers and transport company owners, it said adding that if a case of traffic accident were to be registered, the complainant should bribe the officer and if the accused paid higher amount to police, they could shift burdens of the accused and the complaint as the officer chose, it pointed out.
Most officers owned assets disproportionate to their legitimate source of income. Many officers to avoid problems maintained these assets in the names of their relatives, the report added.
“Bangladesh’s law-enforcement agents have a reputation for abusing authority through coercive means.”
To keep the police subservient to the ruling elite, the government had kept the salary of the police force very low. “This opens the floodgates and serves as incentive for the police officers to demand and accept bribes.”
“Impunity provided to the force against prosecution for corruption and all other crimes these officers commit is returned by the force by undertaking ‘cleanup’ work for the ruling elite, most often by ‘dealing’ with political opponents,” the report went on.
It further said the disparity between the wealth of some police officers and their actual income was the proof to this illegal nexus of corruption and protection between police and politicians in Bangladesh.
Unfortunately, the government was least bothered about this plight of the people, it added.
“Often the officers’ families do not care that most of their conveniences in life has a story of sorrow, misery and blood of the common citizens. Often the acquisition of a police officer is the ‘blood’, ‘sweat’, ‘sigh’, ‘tears’ and ‘curse’ of the ordinary citizens!”
It said the country must end this entrenched institutional wilt and treat it as the matter of highest priority.
Unless Bangladesh reformed its policing system, made police a professional body, equipped and trained to serve the people as required in any modern democracy, there would be no hope for the people, failing which justice, equality and fair trial would be impossible in the country, the report observed.