Reported on: May 25, 2012 00:41 AM
Reported in: National
Dhaka, May 24 (UNB) - The US Human Rights Report 2011 on Thursday said the law in Bangladesh provides criminal penalties for official corruption, but the government did not implement the law effectively and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.
The report released in Washington said the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is the government agency charged with fighting corruption.
On February 23, it said the government appointed a former bureaucrat and a retired judge, both publicly identified with the ruling AL, as commissioners of the ACC.
Referring to a 2010 report by the World Bank, it said the government tried to undercut the authority of the ACC and severely hampered the prosecution of corruption throughout the country.
The reports stated that the government had filed far fewer corruption cases than the caretaker government and that a government commission had recommended that the ACC drop thousands of corruption cases, mostly involving AL members.
It said members of civil society stated that the government was not serious about fighting corruption and that the ACC was used for politically motivated persecutions.
The report said Transparency International Bangladesh asserted that political interference in the ACC’s operations had rendered it a “toothless tiger.”
Citing an example, it said on August 8, the ACC filed a case against the leader of the opposition in parliament Khaleda Zia, and three others, alleging that they abused power to set up a charitable trust named after late president Ziaur Rahman. The opposition BNP termed the case “baseless and politically motivated.”
On June 23, the report said a Dhaka court sentenced Arafat Rahman Koko, the younger son of Khaleda Zia, to six years’ rigorous imprisonment in a money-laundering case filed by the ACC in 2009.
A separate money-laundering case was also filed against Khaleda Zia’s other son, Tarique Rahman. Both were living outside the country on bail at year’s end, but as a result of his conviction, Rahman Koko effectively became a fugitive.
A review committee headed by the state minister for law, justice, and parliamentary affairs recommended the withdrawal of politically motivated cases that the government and ACC filed prior to 2009.
The report said the committee recommended the withdrawal of approximately 1,817 cases, filed mostly against AL leaders, including all the cases filed against Sheikh Hasina.
Other cases recommended for withdrawal included one case against BNP leader Khaleda Zia’s son, Tarique Rahman, one against BNP leader Moudud Ahmed, and one against Jatiya Party secretary general Ruhul Amin Howlader.
Moudud Ahmed refused the government’s offer to withdraw all cases against him and demanded the withdrawal of all politically motivated cases against BNP leaders, including Khaleda Zia and her sons.
However, the report noted that the government took some steps to address widespread police corruption. The inspector general of police continued to implement a new strategy, partially funded by international donors, for training police, addressing corruption, and creating a more responsive police force.
“No assessment of its impact on corruption within the police force was available,” it said.
The report said: “The judiciary was subject to political pressure from the government, and cases involving opposition leaders often proceeded in an irregular fashion.”
“In several cases the appellate division overturned decisions granting bail to high-level corruption suspects who were leaders of opposition parties.”
The report said “Corruption remained a serious problem within the judiciary. Corruption was a factor in lengthy delays of trials, which were subject to witness tampering and intimidation of victims.”
It said “several reports by human rights groups and corruption watchdog groups indicated growing public dissatisfaction with the perceived politicization of the judiciary.”
The report said the law provides for public access to government information, but in practice it has not been fully effective.