Tonu's murder should not go unpunished: Adv Salma Ali | The Daily Star

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12:00 AM, April 18, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:40 AM, October 09, 2016

Tonu's murder should not go unpunished -- Advocate Salma Ali

It has been almost a month now and still we have not seen any significant progress in the investigation into Sohagi Jahan Tonu's killing. In an interview with Shamsuddoza Sajen of The Daily Star, BNWLA's (Bangladesh National Women Lawyers' Association) Executive Director Advocate Salma Ali pinpoints various loopholes in the investigation process. BNWLA is providing legal support to the victim's family.

Q: The first autopsy report has been made public recently. What is your opinion on the findings of the report? 

I have serious doubts about the first autopsy report. It failed to ascertain the cause of Sohagi Jahan Tonu's death. The investigative agency, CID, has also raised doubt about it. Now, another autopsy is required to determine the cause of her death which is quite rare. The unfortunate fact is that the raw evidence gets lost or destroyed with time. I don't understand why the dead body of Tonu was buried hurriedly without collecting enough evidence for investigation. 

The inquest report submitted by the police is also unacceptable. It did not find any sign of injury or assault on any part of the victim's body. Soon after the incident, I visited the spot. I personally talked to the army officers and Tonu's parents. They confirmed that there were severe injury marks on her body. Tonu's father, who was the first to find her daughter dead in a bush in Comilla Cantonment area, told me that the back of Tonu's head was smashed, and there were injuries in her nose particularly. All such evidence is missing now.

Q: What is the present status of the case? 

A second autopsy was conducted on March 30, two days after a Comilla court ordered the fresh autopsy following the investigator's appeal. Its findings are yet to be made public. It is taking an unusually long time. We are waiting for the report. 

The case is now under Penal Code. If symptoms of rape are found in the second autopsy report the case will be automatically diverted to Prevention of Women and Children Repression Act. In this Act, there is a clear time limit for submission of investigation report and trial of a case. In the Penal code the trial process is not time bound. The delay in trial process often leads to a systematic denial in justice. Tanu's murder should not go unpunished. 

Q: It is reported in the media that the family members of the victim have been continuously harassed in the name of investigation. Does not this constitute a violation of the rights of the witnesses? 

I have serious objection to the way the parents and relatives of Tonu have been interrogated by the law enforcement agencies. Tonu's parents told me that they had been put under pressure to mention in the statement that Tonu had a relation with someone in the college, and other demeaning things about their daughter. It is clear that there is a coterie working behind the scene to divert the case. I urge the government to provide full protection to Tonu's family. The government agencies should stop harassing them in the name of collecting information or by any means. 

It also indicates to the vulnerability of victim's family and witnesses in our country. We have no law regarding protection of the rights of victims and witnesses.  It is a major barrier to access to justice. We were actively engaged in the drafting of such a law. The final report on a proposed law relating to the protection of victims and witnesses was submitted by the law commission to the government in 2006.  On December 7, 2015 the High Court also issued an order to frame a law to protect witness and victims. Still there is no progress in this regard. It is very unfortunate. The government should formulate the law immediately.

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