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Oct 28, 2011

Bhutan: An Opportunity for the Police to Salvage their Image


It was reassuring to read in Kuensel this morning that the Police have opened an investigation into the incidents involving the ruthless and horrendous beating of a student in a locked basement room. 

This may probably be the first time, since the Police Act was passed in 2009, that such an internal investigation is being launched by the police into one of their own.  According to that Act, the police must be polite and tolerant in dealing with members of the public and their colleagues, and uphold the human rights of all persons while performing their duty; and the government has the power and the authority to investigate misconduct by the police force.(Kuensel)

It is also with great reassurance that we have heard from the Prime Minister of Bhutan who has said on this issue (also according to a tweet from MP Sangay Khandu)

@sangaykhandu
Sangay Khandu
'If investigation's found not satisfactory then it'll be handled at other levels outside of the Police force' - Bhutan PM on recent incident

This is fair enough especially because we recently heard from other officials who came out in defense of the accused Police Officer even before an investigation could be launched and the facts of the case/incident, determined.

It is normal procedure in many cases that the Police Department be allowed to conduct its own investigation before an independent committee outside the police force be setup for one.  The only thing is that can we trust the police to conduct this investigation with great jurisprudence? 

Since the incident, the conduct of the accused officer as well as the Police Chief has, apparently, been rather questionable, so one really wonders how well and thorough this investigation will be. Which police officer, I would like to know, is going to ask the tough Questions to the Chief when they couldn't even stop the SP from beating the boy.

Will any policeman be truthful enough to report the actual facts of the incident when even at the time the events occurred they didn't? Will the accused officer and the others admit that the boy was allegedly asked/forced to give a written confession admitting to wrongdoing? Will the Police Chief own up to the allegations that he even offered money to the boy's family, about Nu.10,000 (twice) as "compensation?" Does he know that this can be, otherwise, called hush money? Will both officials accept that they even apologized to the boy and the students - inadvertently admitting that they were in the wrong?

Apparently there were many witnesses, from amongst the students and the police. The students are fortunate that they can speak up because they have the full support of their Principal and the faculty who have apparently been very supportive of the victim as well as their students. This is something to be applauded and held up as an example. At a time when there are no influential parents, or relatives, to descend upon the police station to demand answers, the faculty of the school have proven that education is not simply about teaching a lesson in the classroom but also outside it - to question a system and authorities when they are in the wrong; to stand up for the young and weak; to seek answers and justice.

When I spoke to the victim, he told me that they were doing this not because he wanted justice for himself, but because like the others around him, he wants to see that this never happens to any other child or person.

The only thing standing against the boy is that when he was released from the police station and went straight to the emergency ward in the evening, he did not admit to the Doctor that he had been beaten. He told me he was scared, frightened, was shaking from fear, anger and humiliation and was ashamed to tell the Doctor of the incident. Instead, he told the Doctor that he had fallen; refused to get the stitches that would've required time, but instead took the painkillers and medication and went straight home and snuck into bed. His parents were away in the village and his brother who was working returned home late after he had gone to bed. In essence, he did not report it to anyone.  It was only because the other students who saw him being dragged away reported that he had been missing to the teachers who questioned him about the events.

While this is totally understandable - his need to shrug off/forget as much of the horrible occurring's of the day; by being let down by people you trusted would protect you, not beat and violate you - it may be hard to prove his injuries. One can only hope that the Doctor on duty will testify to what he saw that day and that the police officers who helped wipe the blood off the boys head with a hanky, offered him water and helped warm his hands to write the confession statement; will speak the truth.

The Police should also not look upon this incident as something that is destroying their reputation and neither should the government. There are always bad apples in every department and the government is not responsible for what every person or official says or does. What will really ruin the police and governments reputation is if they do not make people accountable for their actions; their words; and their conduct.

And with this case comes every opportunity for the police department and the government to salvage their good image as upholders of the values and ideals of a GNH society by meting justice to the wronged. Behaving in an archaic way - to hide the truth and the facts - can only be counter-productive.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good one!. After the PMs statement yesterday I felt that there is so much difference between people who can think & who cannot.