Custodial death is a gross violation of human rights- Explain & Illustrate.

Custodial death is a gross violation of human rights- Explain & Illustrate.

1. Introduction

Whenever we go through daily newspaper or news on broadcast media, one of the most common topics we can find is death in custody. Custodial death is very common phenomenon in most of the country .It is one of the worst crime in the civilized society, governed by the rule of law. The custody implies guardianship and protective care. Even when applied to indicate arrest or incarceration. It does not carry any sinister symptom of violence during custody. Use of too much force and more than lawful authority by police generally causes custodial death. If torture of a suspect during police custody is subject to a crime, causing death by beating in police custody even a more dreadful crime and a most awful act. The authority must also ensure that the prisoners can practice all the human rights that they are supposed to get. In most of the cases the police get the duty to look after the prisoners. The police play a vital role in keeping the society safe and secured [1]. Torture in custody flouts the basic rights of the citizen and is an affront to human dignity. Keep in mind the pain and suffering that a victim suffer due to torture, the security of  his life  and freedom from  such brutal treatment  becomes the most sacred responsibility of every organs of justice delivery system.   In custodial crimes, not only the inflection of body pains is worrisome, but also the trauma and mental agony which a person undergoes within the four walls of police station or lock up. It poses a serious threat to an orderly civilized society.

2. Conceptual aspect regarding custodial death

Law has always discouraged the acts or omissions which in general can affect right in ram and violators have always been punished with strict sanctions but the crime rate is not falling and State is in regular quest to preserve social solidarity and peace in society.  Whenever death occurs in custody, it raises the public interest and attracts media attention. Not that at each time the death is due to violent causes but at times may be due to inadequate medical facilities or may be due to physical abuse and torture. Since time immemorial man has been attempting to subjugate his fellow human beings. Those in power are used to twisting and turning the people through violence and torture, and torture under custody has become a global phenomenon. Men, women and even children are subjected to torture in many of the world’s countries, even though in most of these countries, the use of torture is prohibited by law and by the international declarations signed by their respective representatives.


1. It is the duty of all the people in a society to keep it safe. But as a representative of the government, the police have the responsibility more than any other people to look after the society and to stop crime. They have the authority of the police to take care of the people of the society.

A problem of increasing occurrence and repugnance had been the methods of interrogation and torture perpetrated upon prisoners and detainees. Persons held in custody, by police or retain their basic constitutional right except for their right to liberty and a qualified right to privacy. The Magistrate inquest is mandatory for any death of a person in custody to ensure examination of the circumstances leading to death. Beyond Magistrate’s inquest and in recent year’s information to Human Right Commission, however, there is no formal public scrutiny of in-prison deaths and under such situations many avoidable factors leading to death remains unexplored.

3. Human rights

Before discussing about the violation of Human Rights, let’s know the definition of “Human Rights”. “Human Rights” are referred to fundamental rights which humans have by the fact of being human and which are neither created nor can be abrogated by any government. Supported by several international conventions and treaties (such as the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948), these include Right to get food, Right to get clothes, Right to get shelter, Right to get education,   Right to get treatment, Right to get proper judgment. Economic and political rights, such as right to life, liberty, cultural, and equality before law and right of association, belief, free speech, information, religion, movement and nationality [2] Human Rights refer to inherent, universal rights of human beings regardless of jurisdiction or other factors, such as ethnicity, Although they were defined  first by the UK philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) as absolute moral claims or entitlement life, liberty, and property the best-known expression of human rights is in the US Declaration of Rights in 1776 which proclaims that “All men             are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent natural rights of which when they enter a society they cannot by an compact deprive or divest their posterity.” Called also fundamental rights. [3]

4. Human Rights Law

There are many human rights law assigned by the sovereign authority for the well being of a society by ensuring the safety of every individual. The law which concerns with the deaths in custody is Article 2 of The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR), The Human Rights Act 1998, which states that: [4]

“1. Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law.


2. See details in

3. Legally, human rights are defined in international law and conventions and further, in the domestic laws of many states.

2. Deprivation of life shall not be regarded as inflicted in contravention of this Article when it results from the use of force which is no more than absolutely necessary:

(a) in defense of any person from unlawful violence;

(b) in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained;

(c) in action lawfully taken for the purpose of quelling a riot or insurrection.”

Article 2 clearly provides that the state should not deprive you of your life, except in very limited circumstances. According to the article, whenever someone is killed by a police, army or prison officer, the incident will always link to “right to life”. In such a circumstance, investigations will be called and a failure in the investigation at the hands of a state official is likely to be a breach of Article 2. [5]

5. Custodial Deaths According to Bangladesh

The issue of custodial deaths has, once again, become the focal point of discussion in both the press and the court. The human rights organization Ain O Salish Kendra put the number of people killed in custody of law enforcers in 2009 at 229. Moreover, it said, 133 people were killed in 2010 in ‘encounters’ with the police and the Rapid Action Battalion. A huge battalion of Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) killed more than seventy army officers and others dead in February 25 and 26, 2009. More than a thousand soldiers including twenty civilians were detained, and the others are still in the police custody. From a statement of the Bangladesh Rifles on April 23, 2009, it was said that “Sixteen detainees have died in custody From credible sources in Bangladesh, reports were found by the Human Rights Watch on torture of detainees while they swore in custody.

In March 2010, the battalion leader stated that they have killed 622 people due to “Crossfire” while some human rights organizations claim that this number is over than one thousand. There have also been many reports of torture [6]. According to media reports, local and international human rights organizations and the govt. the RAB killed 41 persons during the year of 2009 and 68 persons in the year of 2008. The deaths, some under unusual circumstances, occurred during raids, arrests and other law enforcement operations or in some cases while the accused were in custody. The govt. often described these deaths as “Crossfire”, “Gunfight” or “Encounter Killings”. ____________________________________________________________________

4. See details in

5. See details right

6. Staff correspondent, Rajshahi, “Torture marks found on victim’s body”, The Daily Star 21 May. 2007

Scenario 1: On July 6th 2010, three police officers of Darus Salam Police Station have been suspended following the death of an alleged drug peddler in police custody. The suspension order was for Sub Inspector Hekmatullah, Assistant Sub Inspector Moshiur Rahman and another ASI Abu Sayem. The Police on July 1 arrested Mojibur Rahman, 45, for his alleged involvement with drug peddling. His body was recovered from the Turag River adjacent to the police station on the following day.

Scenario 2: On July 4th 2010, two Sub Inspectors of Gulshan Police station were closed to the Rajarbagh Police Lines following the death of Mizanur Rahman, who died in police custody. His relatives alleged that the police killed Mizanur for not giving bribes. The police claimed that he had died while mugging.

Scenario 3: An auto rickshaw driver was killed in police custody on June 28th, 2010.

Scenario 4: On February 8th 2010, three officials of Keraniganj Police Station, including the officer in charge have been sued for the death in custody of a murder suspect last week. Addu miah, father of victim Lutfur Rahman Miah, Alias Manik, filled the case with Dhaka Chief Judicial Magistrate’s Court on Monday, alleging that his son was tortured to death while in police custody. But Keraniganj Police claimed that he committed suicide. Keraniganj Police Chief Md. Asaduzzaman, Sub Inspectors Zahidur Rahman and Harunur Rashid have been accused in this case. On February 1, Keraniganj Police said 38 years old Manik, detained in connection with the murder of a woman, had hung himself in the toilet of Police Station.[7]

The following is the statistic of custodial death in Bangladesh in recent years:

Year Number of death
2010s At least 64 people
2009 At least 54 people by both police and RAB
2008 More than 100 people
2007 At least 130 people



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6. Human Right Against Custodial Deaths

The most fundamental part of human rights is the right to life. This type of human rights which protect people detained by the State falls under the law of Human Rights Act 1998. A death penalty or even custodial deaths violate these rights according to many human rights activists from around the world. A state ensures protection of its people enforced by law. They have more responsibility about a person’s protection when they take them into custody in doubts of unlawful acts. Therefore, whenever a person dies in custody, it raises a major human rights issue.

Human Rights legislation commonly contains several rights. One of those rights is security rights[8].

Security rights are those that protect people against crimes such as murder, massacre, torture and rape. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, fundamental human rights are violated when some certain circumstances arise like, life, liberty or security of person are threatened [9]or cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment is used on a person such as, torture or execution [10]

Article 31 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh states that, to enjoy the protection of the law, and to be treated in accordance with law and only in accordance with law, is the inalienable right of every citizen, wherever he may be, and of every other person for the time being within Bangladesh, and in particular no action detrimental to the life, liberty, body, reputation or property of any person shall be taken except in accordance with law.

Article 32 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh provides that, no person shall be deprived of life or personal liberty save in accordance with law.


8.  Human Rights legislation commonly contains seven rights. These are (a) security rights (b) liberty rights (c) political rights (d) due process rights (e) equality rights (f) welfare rights (g) group rights. Security right is relevant to our discussion.

9. Article 3 of UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

10. Articles 5 of UDHR(Universal Declaration of Human Rights )

Article 35 (4) of the Constitution of our country says that, no person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.

Article 35 (5) says, no person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or treatment

It is clear that our Constitution provides our lives with proper protection. In the above mentioned articles we see that, in no way no one should be beaten or punished or tortured till death. But from our previous scenarios we see that, Police or RAB tortured accused persons in their custody till death, which was clearly a violation of human rights and our Constitution. It is widely known that in “Remand”, Police torture accused persons so extremely that sometimes Police endanger their lives. But article 35 (5) of our constitution strictly prohibited this practice.

7. Uphold High Court ruling against Custodial Death

High Court in June 2010 asserted in unambiguous terms that it would show zero tolerance to custodial deaths and laid down some directives for the authorities concerned with a view to preventing such deaths. Legal experts and human rights activities in the country have expressed their deep concern over continuation of custodial deaths even after the High Court has issued directions to stop such incidents. Chairman of the BNHRC [11] Dr Mizanur Rahman has said that the Commission got some allegations of such illegal deaths. General Secretary of the SCBA [12] Barrister Badruddoza Badol expressed his astonishment at the continuous death in remand despite the HC directions to stop such deaths. One of the human rights body, recorded 40 citizens in the last seven months who died in jail custody and another 2 persons to have died in court custody and RAB custody. Earlier on June 1, the High Court warned the Government regarding custodial death saying that “It (the court) will not tolerate custodial death in future.


11. Bangladesh National Human Rights Commission (BNHRC)

12. Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA)

8. Precautionary & Safety Actions to Stop Custodial Death

Custodial death is never expected in any enlightened society. To stop this unlawful activity some steps can be taken. They are as follows:

1.      The government should implement current laws regarding custodial death. There should be laws regarding custodial death. The only thing that needs to do is the government should apply those laws.

2.      Sometimes the existing laws might not be sufficient to stop custodial death. In that case the Government of country should formulate new rule and regulation to stop this unauthorized action.

3.      The police are the people who are engaged in protecting the law of any country. So if they violate the rule, then the general people might be encouraged to breach rules. For that reason the government should be very strict in giving punishment to the convicted police who will be responsible for the custodial death of criminals.

4.      A proper amount of medical facilities should be provided in jails with the intention that in case of crisis, proper and well-timed medical help could be provided to the persons in the jail.

5.         The police can be trained to use new scientific and parallel and psychological prejudiced technique instead of using torture.

6.         It will be more helpful if The Government provide free education up to graduation level to the dependants of the victim of the custodial death.

7.         The most important requirement is to sanction a monthly pension to the dependants of the victim of the custodial death because Government is liable for their miseries and sufferings. [13]


11. Bangladesh National Human Rights Commission (BNHRC)

12. Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA)

13. See details in http://

9. Conclusion

Everyone wants a crime free world to live in. There might have some people who will try to violate the law and engage in crime. For the sake of the peace of the society those people obviously need to be punished by the proper authority. But at the same time it has to be noticed that the human right should not be violated.  The cases that come to light reflect the cruelty with which the human beings brought in custody or control are treated by their fellow human beings. Such cruel demeanors of human beings would put to shame even wild carnivorous beasts and terrify and benumb tigers witnessing the skinning of a mighty tigress in the helpless custody of her captors supposed to protect and preserve the specie. Section 37 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 empowers the Government to constitute: one or more special investigative teams consisting of such police officers as it thinks necessary for the purpose of investigation and prosecution of offences arising out of violations of human rights. But no improvement seems to have taken place so far.   No criminal should die in the custody of the people who are liable to protect the law. If the criminals die in the police custody then there will be a hap hazard situation in the society. So everyone should be respectful to the law and to the human rights. To make a better world for the next generation, any kind of violation of law should be prohibited and stopping the custodial death is a small part of that step


1. Biles, D. (1994) ‘Deaths in custody: the Nature and Scope of The Problem’ in A. Liebling and T. Ward (eds) Death in Custody: International Perspective

2. Police brutality in Vietnam ‘systemic and widespread’ (2010, September 23). In BBC News.


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16. Human Rights Act Implications for Protection (n.d.). In Your Rights.

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18.  Joint Committee on Human Rights is appointed by the House of Lords and the House of Commons to consider matters relating to human rights in the United Kingdom (but excluding consideration of individual cases); proposals for remedial orders, draft remedial orders and remedial orders.

19. High Court

20.  Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh (HRPB)

21. Information retrieved from″ target=_blank >

22. Bangladesh National Human Rights Commission (BNHRC)

23. Supreme Court Bar Association (5CBA

24. Information retrieved from http: / / /articles/index.Php?