World News

Bangladesh must investigate rife torture: U.N. rights body

GENEVA (Reuters) - A U.N. human rights body called on Bangladeshi authorities on Friday to investigate credible allegations that police and security forces routinely torture detainees and to prosecute any perpetrators.

It was the first time that the independent experts examined the record of Bangladesh, which ratified an international ban on torture in 1999 but had failed to submit any compliance reports until last month.

“Bangladesh presented us with no report for 20 years, came a week beforehand and gave us a report which was solely about the law,” panel member Felice Gaer told a briefing.

“We did not come out with a happy conclusion. We have a 16-page report which begins with the discussion of widespread torture, widespread and routine torture,” she said.

A delegation of 20 Bangladeshi officials led by justice minister Anisul Huq told the U.N. Committee Against Torture that the government was committed to preventing any violent punishment and acts of torture.

It had initiated prison reform and had a “zero-tolerance policy” for deaths in custody due to torture, he said.

The government delegation said 17 claims of torture had been brought, but it was unable to provide any details, Gaer added.

The panel, which received information from activists and U.N. agencies, voiced concern at allegations of “widespread and routine commission of torture and ill-treatment in (Bangladesh) by law enforcement officials for the purpose of obtaining confessions or to solicit the payment of bribes”.

It cited reports that “police officers frequently refuse to register claims of torture or disappearance brought by victims or family members”.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Hugh Lawson