Families allege undertrial accused in terror cases

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This article is written by Sanjana Jain, a student of Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi. This article talks about the torture and other abuses committed by police against the suspects of terror attack. This article also talks about the sufferings of family members of suspects of terror attack.

Introduction

A policeman told me, “We will let your son go only if he gives us some names.” But my son said to me, “how can i  risk others and give any names wrongfully”. The police asked me, “to tell him to give the name of some people, otherwise, his life will be destroyed”.

                                              – A father whose son was arrested in a terror attack. 

“No intelligence or forensic training, or education is given to me, you provide me a stick only, then how can you ask me why I am beating them.”

– By a security analyst on a question of why the suspects of terror attacks are being tortured by police.

In 2008, India was in a state of panic because of the Bomb blast in 3 major states i.e. Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Delhi, which killed 152 people and injured hundreds of other people. An unknown  Islamist militant group known as the Indian Mujahideen (IM) took responsibility for it. The bomb blast targeted civilians at hospitals, market, and other public places.

The state policy brought in custody many Muslim men and questioned them, and also the state police tortured and ill-treated some of the suspects in order to get them to confess and also labelled many of them as “anti-nationals”. In many cases, the state police itself drafted the confessions of suspects. While waiting for trial, suspects suffered mistreatment in jail, and also unfair proceedings were faced by them in court.

Another attack was held in Mumbai, in which the entertainment and commercial hub of Mumbai was attacked by 10 Pakistani gunmen. This attack was later on found to have a connection with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a Pakistan based group. Nine Pakistani gunmen were killed, while one was captured. Again in the year 2010, a bomb blast was held in Pune, where 17 people were killed, hundreds of them were injured. 

While identifying and investigating the suspects of these attacks, the Indian Security Force has violated many human rights. Many suspects told that they were forced to sign blank sheets of paper by police and the necessities like food and water were also denied to them by police. When suspects meet their family and lawyers, police remain within earshot, making it impossible for suspects to talk to their family and lawyer.

This article mainly focuses on the tortures and ill-treatment done by the police against the suspects of terror attacks.

Torture and other ill-treatment of terrorism suspects

The 2008 bomb blast in Jaipur, Ahmedabad, and Delhi killed many people and also created a state of panic across the country. In Surat, after 3 days of the Ahmedabad bomb blast, 18 bombs were defused by police.

After these attacks, the state police conducted an investigation and brought hundreds of Muslim men particularly those who were connected with the banned group i.e Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) for questioning. More than 70 suspects were charged by police to be involved in these attacks. The state police while conducting investigation conducted serious abuses of suspect’s rights, such as torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary arrest and detention, and threats against the life of suspects and their families. The abuses conducted by the state police violate both the Indian and International law.

Torture in police custody

The 2008 bomb blast, suspects suffered numerous amounts of torture and ill-treatment from state police, it included both mental and physical abuses like an electric shock, beating, stress positions, denial of necessities like food and water, and threats against suspects and their relatives. The police increased the level of abuse on the basis of how quickly suspects respond, and make a confession or give other incriminating information.

In many cases, the state police themselves made confessions and forced the suspects to sign it and memorize it, to repeat the same in court in front of a magistrate. State police also use these confessions to convince the magistrate to increase the police custody of the accused.

In India usually, in all types of criminal cases, police apply the tool of torture in order to get confessions from suspects, it is also admitted by many investigating officers that they use forceful methods in order to extract information from suspects. But in the case of the 2008 bomb blast, because of public pressure, the state police has increased its level of torture in order to find and punish the accused, because of this reason only in India the confessions made to the police are not admissible in court. For a confession to be admissible in court as evidence it should be made in front of a magistrate.

The worst abuse was committed in Gujarat by the crime branch at Gaekwad Haveli lockup in Ahmedabad in the 2008 bomb blast case. According to the Gujarati accused lawyer, I.M. Munshi, the suspects were forced to sit facing a wall in the lockup, and for 18 to 20 hours a day, their eyes were covered and their hands were cuffed by police and often suspects were taken for late night interrogation. A similar statement was given by a former suspect held in Ahmedabad, highlighting that suspects were forced to wear dark masks and they were beaten in the lockup late at night usually. The family members and the lawyers of the suspects tell that while interrogating police use a method which they named as “T”, in which the legs of the suspects have pulled apart while beating him at the bottom of his feet.  A family member of one of the suspect said :

“His son told them that he was beaten very brutally by police; they tied his both feet and stretched them to 180 degrees and beat the bottom of the feat, after that the pain he felt was unbearable for any person”.

Forced confessions in police lockup

Family members and lawyers of the suspects tell that the suspects are forced to sign the confessions made by the police themselves. The father of Saqib Nisar, a twenty-two-year-old suspect, who was detained at Delhi Special Cell lockup tells that the police did not let his son sleep until he memorized the police made story of the Delhi bomb blast. He also said that when his son was allowed to meet him, his mouth was wrapped with a cloth.

When a complaint is filed against police officers for such abuses, they denied in court of any ill-treatment and say that they have just followed the laws regarding custody and the suspect is narrating a false story in order to dodge prosecution. In return for these complaints, the police custody of suspects was extended with the same police officer who was doing the abuse.

Beatings in jail

In India, suspects are considered safe from abuse in jail, which is under judicial custody. But in the 2008 bomb blast case, it was found that the suspects were abused in jail also, and the abuse was done by the police, jail authorities, and fellow inmates. Also, whenever suspects knelt down in prayer, they were beaten by guards and police. 

In 2010, a 17-year-old boy, named Mohammed Salman, was kept in Tihar jail in Delhi, as a suspect of a bomb blast held in Delhi. Once he came to court with his head bandaged and told the judge that he was attacked by his two inmates and jail authorities didn’t do anything against it and also he requested them to transfer him but no action was taken by them. The judge ordered the internal investigation of this incident and also said a transfer of Salman. But till now the investigation was not made public.

In Sabarmati Jail in Ahmedabad, 22 prisoners allege that they were assaulted by prisoners and police authorities when they were kneeling in afternoon prayer, and many of them were injured badly. The family members and the lawyers of the injured suspects came to see them but both of them were denied by police and jail authorities. Also, the injured suspects were not taken to the hospital, they were treated by jail doctors. On this, the court said that the act done by the jail authorities was lawful and was under the Jail Manual guidelines, and ordered additional food and medical treatment for the suspects. 

Arbitrary detention

According to Indian law, the suspects have to be brought before a magistrate within 24 hrs of arrest but in the case of the 2008 bomb blast, the suspects were not brought before the magistrate and held detained for a month before the police finally released them or officially arrested them. Also, the suspects were held incommunicado in undisclosed locations by the police and they were not let to meet their family or lawyer. Most of the suspects who were detained were the members of Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), their family members said that in Indian counterterrorism cases Members of SIMI have become “the usual suspects”.

In Gujarat, many of these wrongful detention takes place, one was after the July 26 bomb blast, where 16 suspects were detained for a week secretly by police before their detentions were made public. On August 15, the official arrest of the suspects was announced, which was followed by their presence before the magistrate. By then, police declared that the bomb blast was linked to SIMI and the confessions have been made by the suspects.

Arrest of relatives to coerce surrenders or obtain information

Many times, police in the form of collective punishment take in custody the family members of the suspects and sometimes use them as hostages. The Gujarat police in 2008 was unable to find the suspect named Abdul Raziq, on not finding him, police instead of him picked Shakeel his brother and for a month kept him in custody.

In one case, the police were finding the suspect and on not finding him at home, police grabbed his 19-year-old distant cousin named Mohammad Saquib and dragged him barefoot in his pyjamas to the car waiting outside without letting him speak to his mother. He was taken by police for questioning and they threatened him that they will not let him go until his brother surrenders himself.

                   

Denial of access to lawyers and family members

According to Indian law, arrested persons have the right to access legal consultations. Also, it’s a duty of the police to inform the family members of the suspect about the arrest and let the suspect meet his/her lawyer. During the consultation with lawyers, police must be out of earshot, although for safety purposes they can view the suspect. But in all these bomb blast cases the police do not let the suspect meet his family and lawyers for weeks. Also, the police in some cases heard the conversation held between the lawyer and the suspects whenever they were allowed to visit.

In many cases, family members alleged that they were not allowed to meet the suspects twice, Abdur Rahman Ansari travelled 460 miles—a 24-hour journey by bus and train to meet his son, who is a suspect in the Jaipur bomb blast case, but every time he came to meet his son he was denied by the police.

Conclusion

To end impunity for crimes against terrorism, suspects and others in India, the government should repeal the harsh provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in order to end torture and other abuses. Similarly, the provisions of the National Investigation Agency Act (NIAA) shall be repealed that grants wider power to special courts to conduct proceedings with undisclosed witnesses.

Whenever a warrantless arrest is done by police, a formal reason for it shall be recorded by them, this will help in preventing the impunity. Also, the guidelines provided by the Supreme Court for police officers in the landmark case of D.K. Basu should be followed.

References

 


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