Deaths in In­dian po­lice cus­tody go un­pun­ished: Rights group

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Senthil Ku­mar’s mother saw him be­ing dragged off by po­lice­men on charges of ex­tor­tion. Stand­ing out­side the Vadamadu­rai po­lice sta­tion in In­dia’s south­ern state of Tamil Nadu, she heard him scream for mercy. The next day she was told her son was dead. “He didn’t die, he was killed,” she told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion, re­call­ing the events of April 2010. “And I know the name of every po­lice­man who did it.”

Ku­mar is one of the 591 peo­ple who have died in po­lice cus­tody in In­dia since 2010, Hu­man Rights Watch (HRW) said Mon­day, call­ing for the strict im­ple­men­ta­tion of ex­ist­ing laws on ar­rest and de­ten­tion. Cit­ing gov­ern­ment data, the re­port said 97 peo­ple died in po­lice cus­tody in 2015 alone, and there was not a sin­gle known case in the past five years in which a po­lice of­fi­cial had been con­victed for a cus­to­dial death.

“In al­most all cases, the po­lice passes off these deaths as sui­cide or a heart at­tack,” said Jayshree Ba­jo­ria, au­thor of HRW’s re­port. “And the brother­hood kicks in to shield the guilty, who are their own col­leagues. The en­tire sys­tem col­lab­o­rates to pro­tect the guilty po­lice­men in­stead of tak­ing ac­tion against them.”

K S Dhat­walia, spokesman for the Min­istry of Home Af­fairs in New Delhi, the gov­ern­ment depart­ment re­spon­si­ble for po­lice, told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion on Mon­day the min­istry would “look into the re­port and take nec­es­sary ac­tion”. The re­port ex­am­ines in­ves­ti­ga­tions into 17 deaths in cus­tody be­tween 2009 and 2015. In each case, the po­lice did not fol­low proper ar­rest pro­ce­dures, mak­ing the sus­pect more vul­ner­a­ble to abuse, Ba­jo­ria said.

Forms of tor­ture

Leonard Val­daris trusted the po­lice­men who wanted to talk to his son about a theft in the neigh­bor­hood in April 2014. But when he walked into the Wadala rail­way po­lice sta­tion in Mum­bai the next day, the re­port said, his son was “cry­ing bit­terly” and told him the po­lice had beaten him all night and would kill him. Three days later, Agnelo Val­daris, 25, died, HRW said.

“When I saw my son in the hospi­tal, there ev­ery­thing changed,” Val­daris was quoted as say­ing in the re­port. “There I saw the real­ity. He had been beaten black and blue with a belt.” Forms of tor­ture recorded in the re­port in­clude se­vere beat­ings with boots and belts and some­times sus­pend­ing peo­ple from their wrists. Au­topsy re­ports ex­am­ined by HRW show in­juries con­sis­tent with blunt force trauma. In­dia has rat­i­fied the In­ter­na­tional Covenant on Civil and Po­lit­i­cal Rights and signed the Con­ven­tion against Tor­ture and Other Cruel, In­hu­man or De­grad­ing Treat­ment or Pun­ish­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to the In­dian Code of Crim­i­nal Pro­ce­dure po­lice­men are ex­pected to pre­pare a memo of ar­rest with the date and time of ar­rest, en­sure a med­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion is car­ried out on the ac­cused, in­form the fam­ily of the ar­rest and present the sus­pect be­fore a mag­is­trate within 24 hours.

Ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment records, in 67 of the 97 deaths in cus­tody in 2015, po­lice failed to present the sus­pect be­fore a mag­is­trate or the sus­pect died within 24 hours of ar­rest. “If po­lice fol­low the rules de­signed to de­ter tor­ture and mistreat­ment, deaths in cus­tody could be pre­vented,” said Meenakshi Gan­guly of Hu­man Rights Watch. “In­dia can only boast of rule of law when those charged with en­forc­ing it are held ac­count­able.” — Reuters

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