RESEARCH MONOGRAPH : Preventive Detention And Violation of Human Rights: Bangladesh Perspective




Chapter 4


4.1 Introduction

The violation of Human rights has started from very beginning of our civilization. It is being made in culture of violation of human rights through preventive detention all over the world, especially in the third world countries. It is sorry to mention that Bangladesh is one of them. Human rights violation in case of preventive detention is a common feature in Bangladesh.

4.2 Preventive detention and violation of human rights

Right against arbitrary arrest and detention is one of the important element of Human Rights emphasized by numerous international human rights instrument. Preventive detention, though an evil, is sometimes a necessity for state security. Although this detention has to be only under special circumstances and with accordance with the due procedure of law. Unlawful detention affects several other rights guaranteed by the Constitution consequently it violates Human Rights of a person.

Amongst the national institutions, the judiciary always comes in the forefront of the national systems for the protection of human rights. One of the main functions of the judiciary is to protect human rights guaranteed in constitutions and laws. In protecting human rights, the function of the judiciary is to oversee the way in which the diverse powers of government are exercised within the framework of laws and a set of values, and to protect individuals from arbitrary governmental action.[39]

Preventive detention is a serious encroachment upon the personal liberty of a person, for the simple reason that, unlike ordinary arrest or imprisonment, preventive detention is effected without trial. But in guise of preventive detention law, most of the times the executive authority exercise discretionary power regarding arrest and detention and violates human rights.

4.2.1 Violation of Rights to Life by Preventive Detention

‘Life’ within the meaning of Art.31 means something more than mere animal existence.[40] It includes the right to live consistently with human dignity and decency,[41] right to the bare necessities of life such as adequate nutrition, clothing and shelter and the facilities for reading, writing and expressing oneself its diverse forms, freely moving about and mixing and commingling with fellow human beings[42] and all that which gives meaning and content to a man’s life[43] including tradition, culture and heritage.[44]

According to a leading news daily of Bangladesh, country’s 68 jails, which are designed to detain 34,147 inmates but currently they are holding 71,606.[45] Preventive detention is not for punitive purpose, but the condition in which a person is detained is more than what punishment can be meant. So by detaining a person under preventive detention in jails, which are degrading for any human being to live in, is a gross violation to right to life of the detenu person.

4.2.2 Violation of Right to Liberty and Freedom of Movement

Article 32 of the Bangladesh Constitution ensures personal liberty to every person and Art. 36 ensures freedom of movement, which means every citizen shall have the right to move freely.

But by detaining any person under colorful exercise of the laws regarding preventive detention, the detaining authority violates these fundamental human rights. Again the laws regarding preventive detention itself has many lacunas which the executive authority often takes advantage of. In Bangladesh without trial six months’ detention can conferred to the detainee. This is a bad process because nowhere in the world such a long period is not found. In India and Pakistan, the initial period of detention is three months.

Secondly, no maximum period of detention has been fixed by the Constitution or the Special Powers Act. So a person can be detained for indefinite period where the advisory board thinks it fit. Whereas the maximum period in India is 2 years and 8 months in a year in Pakistan.

Also in Bangladesh there is no specific time when preventive detention law can be applied. It can be applied in both peace time and emergency time. However, in most democratic countries Preventive detention is a method resorted to in emergencies like war. The western developed countries like USA, UK, and Singapore, it is specifically mentioned that only in time of emergency, Preventive detention is applied for and also for specific purposes, but there is no specification in our constitution and can be restored to in times of both peace and emergency.

Moreover, in Bangladesh the Government frequently uses the police for political purposes and provided immunity to members of security forces. There are wide spread corruption allegations and a severe lack of resources, training, and discipline amongst the detaining authorities present. Bangladesh has a large number of political workers and leaders detained without trail through preventive detention under the Special Powers Act 1974, which is a great violation of right to liberty and freedom of movements. On 7 September 2000 a three-member Sub-committee of the Parliamentary Standing Committee submitted a 31-page report on SPA to the Parliament, in which it mentioned that 69,010 people were detained under SPA of 1974 in the last 24 years and 68,195 persons were released by order of the High Court Division.[46]

Special Powers Act has become a draconian law because of its unconstitutional provisions and also its unlawful use by detaining authority. Special Powers Act is a draconian law because under this Act,

  • A detainee has not given any right to know the grounds for which he is detained through the judicial body.
  • Secondly, the Govt. can arrest and detain any person at any time.
  • Thirdly, the Govt. can detain a person for an indefinite period of time if wishes.
  • It is against the commitment and spirit of the Constitution and human rights.

4.2.3 Violation of Right to Freedom from Torture and Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment

Under the Special Powers Act Govt. can use the police officers to arrest any person. And it is a common practice amongst the police to inflict bodily and mental torture or cruel treatment of the persons detained. In spite of constitutional guarantees and protection under International Bill of Rights, such as UDHR[47] and ICCPR the police often in the name of state security detain any person they wish and use torture and cruel treatments in the name of getting information from them.  

An example of the scale of the problem is the four-week crackdown on May 28, 2008 resulting in the arbitrary arrest and detention of more than 50,000 Bangladeshis. Media reports indicated that most persons arrested were subjected to same from of ill-treatment, including beating and that torture was also used on a significant number of detainees, during which the police extracted money or confessions.

4.2.4 Violation of Right to Fair Trail

When a police officer arrests a person under sec. 54 of the CrPC, then the arrested person must be produced before the magistrate within 24 hours of such arrest. But if the Govt. wants to detain any person under sec. 3 of the SPA and makes an order for such detention, the police can put him into prison for 6 months without producing him to any Judicial or Executive authority.

Moreover, many suspected people are detained under wrong information. And most of them don’t possess the means to go to the judicial body to seek remedy. Only the rich can go to the High Court Division and get remedy by instituting the writ of Habeas Corpus.

Art. 33(5) requires that the grounds of detention must, as soon as may be, be communicated to the detenu and the detaining authority must afford him the earliest opportunity of making a representation against the order of detention.[48]It is very important because it not only enables the detenu to make the representation, but also enables him to file a proper application for a writ of Habeas corpus. But there is a proviso to Art. 33(5) and also Section 8(1) of the SPA, 1974 permits the detaining authority to refuse to disclose the facts which it considers against the public interest. However, the ambit of public interest has not been defined, so this proviso is often used as an exploitation tool and in denying right to fair trial. Again Section 11(4) of the SPA states that, the detainee against whom a detention order has been made cannot appear by any legal practitioner in any matter connected with the reference to the Advisory Board, and the proceedings of the Advisory Board and its report, excepting that part of the report in which the opinion of the Advisory Board is specified, shall be confidential. And as the report of the Advisory Board is binding on the executive authority and the Govt., it is always influenced by the authority.

4.2.5 Freedom of speech and expression

Human rights defenders and professionals, including from media, were regularly being monitored, threatened and intimidated by the personal of the country’s armed forces and various intelligence agencies. The democratically elected government do not always have the scope to utilize the emergency provisions for doing the above misdeeds.

However, in the name of SPA and anti-terrorism Act, it has arrests various persons, inflicts torture on some of them and threatens everyone who wish to speak against the Govt. of order of preventive detention against them.

4.3 Conclusion

The condition of overall Human Right condition is not up to the mark in Bangladesh. Even where necessary legal reforms have been made to avoid injustice and protect the fundamental human rights, the unwillingness and incapability of the executive authority had not made the protection a reality. So the horrific use of a draconian law such as SPA 1974 can be easily being presumed. This blackest of the black is the cause of most human right violations in Bangladesh and throughout the world.


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