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Though many a thing have transformed or improved over the last four decades, the juvenile justice system of Bangladesh felt little of the wind of change. Children who have had the misfortune of being in police custody still remain traumatized for life.
“I still have nightmares about the police sub-inspector who made me pee in an electrified bucket for two days,” said Fahad (not his real name), a car mechanic of a Shajahanpur garage.
Fahad was arrested for suspected arms hauling in 2008 when he was 14. He was acquitted of the charge after three years of appearing before the court for hearing of his case. But by then he was deeply traumatised for life by the experience of being in police remand for five days.
“During the first two days, four policemen took turns to torture me. The first pinched and pulled my fingers with pliers. But then my parents gave the policemen about Tk 25,000 and they didn’t touch me for the next three days,” recounted Fahad.
However, asked to comment on what the police do when they come across a child in conflict with the law, officer-in-charge of Kafrul police station Kazi Wazed Ali said, children are never handcuffed or kept in the custody area in police station.
Explaining the current system, officer-in-charge of Kafrul police station Kazi Wazed Ali said, “When we come across a child in conflict with the law we inform the probation officer of social welfare officer .” But the reality is that sights of juveniles being handcuffed in the custody area of police stations are too common in the country.
Like Fahad, another 15 years old boy named Smaran (not his real name) of Shajahanpur, said he was arrested from his home at the dead of the night last month. After receiving regular beatings at Shajahanpur police station he was sent to central jail where he spent 10 days with much older men.
Regarding child-friendly attitude, the police of Bangladesh are not well-informed about their code of conduct.
Inspector Mostafa Kamal, Women and Children Repression Prevention Cell at the police headquarters, said that with help of UNICEF, home ministry is conducting trainings in all districts.
“Starting the project in 2010, initially UNICEF trained 200 police officers, who are now imparting the training to others” said Kamal, who is conducting the training.
Child protection specialist of UNICEF, Shabnaaz Zahereen said that training on child friendly policing is being conducted under ‘Anti-trafficking mechanism and monitoring’ project of the Ministry of Home Affairs..
“The training module has been prepared in the purview of CRC, taking the new law into account, as we were involved in the drafting process of the new law (Children Act 2013),” she said.
However, much work lies ahead to implement the provisions of the new law. One such task, stipulated in Chapter-4 of the law, is forming a children’s desk under a police officer, preferably a women, of at least sub-inspector rank, at every police station.
Inspector General of Police Hassan Mahmood Khandker, said that the department will request for more human resource if required, ‘but that will not stop implementation of the law’.