Shri Justice H L DATTU
National Human Rights Commission
A System of Cruelty: Torture of Prisoners Continues Unabated in the Bhopal Central Jail despite NHRC’s intervention
The horror stories continue at Bhopal’s Central Prison despite NHRC’s intervention. Conditions in the Bhopal Prison is dismal, with inmates still isolated in cramped cells lacking ventilation, Torture is routine, cut off access to families and lawyers, Abuse included being beaten, deprived of sleep, shackled in painful positions and interfere with medical treatment. Inmates suffer acute mental health problems due to systematic ways of Torture. They have no access to medical care. Survivors are psychologically traumatized and physically broken. Authorities there have banned inmates from contacting their families or lawyers for months at a time, held them in degrading conditions, humiliated, beaten. The near total lack of independent oversight in Bhopal Central Jail has exacerbated these abuses and contributed to impunity.
Unfortunately, what is written on paper and what’s going on in real life are not the same. Earlier intervention of NHRC and other civil rights groups made Bhopal jail authorities change tactics by shifting torture to other areas with less monitoring. They have also learned to administer beatings and other torture in ways that left few or no marks but still caused significant suffering. The brutal inmates as “jail bosses” to control other detainees through violence are the new masters. This humiliation of prisoners is ordered by the officials of the prison itself, and is carried out by these ‘bosses’ [the term given to prisoners, often convicted for rape or other heinous crime, who agree to cooperate with the prison administration].
The NHRC should not tolerate “systematic violence” against prisoners, who are deprived of even their most basic rights. The NHRC should start ensuring implementation of safeguards, prosecute perpetrators, and establish effective oversight over prisons.
1) Immediately and publicly condemn the use of torture and other ill-treatment in Bhopal Central Jail despite the NHRC intervention. Initiate prompt, impartial and comprehensive investigations of all complaints of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, as well as when there are reasonable grounds to believe that the torture or ill-treatment has occurred even if no complaint has been made.
2) Allow independent detention monitors to visit Bhopal Central Jail. Form an independent national committee composed of doctors, human rights lawyers, independent human rights groups, current and former judges, and give the committee the authority and mandate to make unannounced prison visits, meet with prisoners privately, submit complaints for investigation to a special investigation team.
3) Immediately implement critical changes at Bhopal Central Jail and any other prison where similar abuses take place. These should include:-
• Ending arbitrary family/lawyer visit bans.
• Ensuring that prisoners have regular access to doctors and appropriate medical treatment.
4) The NHRC should direct for an impartial enquiry and charge those with command responsibility for Bhopal Central Prison in connection with the acts of torture and cruel and inhuman treatment committed by guards and officials.
5) The establishment of a fully independent police complaints mechanism that should be mandated to assume responsibility for investigating all complaints of torture automatically.
6) The corrupt practices and the existing nexus between some influential prison inmates and the prison officials should be enquired.
7) All prisoners shall be treated with the respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings. All prisoners shall be protected from, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, for which no circumstances whatsoever may be invoked as a justification.
I request the NHRC to use your jurisdiction to end systemic culture of impunity in which perpetrators are rarely punished and justice for victims is elusive. This cycle of impunity cannot be broken until torture crimes are brought to light and perpetrators are prosecuted.