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‘Depriving people of their right to fair trial not acceptable’

  • Published at 01:00 am June 2nd, 2018
  • Last updated at 01:01 am June 2nd, 2018
Photo:Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

While the Bangladesh government has been praised at the international level for its generosity towards the oppressed Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, it has recently drawn criticism from rights groups for the ongoing anti-narcotics crackdown that saw more than 120 people killed over a span of just three weeks. In an interview with the Dhaka Tribune’s Kamrul Hasan, National Human Rights Commission Chairman Kazi Reazul Haque discusses various aspects of the drive and a recent invitation from the International Criminal Court to Bangladesh for sending evidence on the Rohingya issue

More than 120 people have reportedly fallen victim to extrajudicial killings during the ongoing countrywide anti-drug drive. Does the human rights law permit such operations where an accused is deprived of his or her right to justice? 

Any drive against drug traders should be conducted in accordance with the law. Anything that runs counter to the law is not acceptable. 

During this crackdown, two factors have drawn attention from different quarters. First, a huge number of drug peddlers were arrested, and many of them were sent to jail by mobile courts. But unfortunately, more than 100 people have been killed until Thursday.

Every person has the right to a fair trial. Depriving people of this right cannot be considered lawful and acceptable.

Secondly, many members of law enforcement agencies were also injured in the drives. This is not expected either. There should be a plan that has to be devised in such a way that no one is hurt in anti-narcotics drives.

To purge the country of drugs, we need to undertake a comprehensive initiative involving all stakeholders. The growing concerns over victimization of innocent people in anti-drug operations will be lessened only when the lists of drug peddlers and their godfathers are impartially verified by public representatives or locals.

Most importantly, extrajudicial killing, in any form, is not acceptable under any legal framework. So, we have to keep the issues of human rights and rule of law in mind while we conduct drives against substance abuse.

There are media reports on innocent people being victimized in the drives. How could those allegations be probed?

There is a guideline for security forces to use firearms. They need to properly abide by the guideline, which clearly mentions that “a magistrate shall investigate why and how the bullets of a firearm were used.” 

So, there should be an investigation whether the forces properly comply with the rules while conducting drives against drug dealers.

Furthermore, the government has to make sure the use of bullets is justified and lawful. This responsibility lies on the government and those officials who are responsible for counting the bullets fired.  

The International Criminal Court has recently urged Bangladesh to explain whether The Hague-based court has jurisdiction to run a case against Myanmar over the Rohingya issue and prosecute those who committed crimes against the Muslim minority in Rakhine. How should Dhaka respond to the call? 

Bangladesh has given shelter to the Rohingya people on humanitarian grounds. The main objective of all measures should be the safe and sustainable repatriation of these forcibly displaced people to their homeland.

Our government should move the ICC not to seek punishment of the Myanmar authorities responsible, but to ensure justice for the oppressed Rohingya. 

In almost every country, minorities always face oppression from majorities in one way or another. I think Bangladesh should actively and quickly respond to the call and cooperate with the court to set an example before the world that no country can flex its muscles against minorities. But, we have not yet seen much enthusiasm and promptness from the government side.

We want the government to act properly so every possible chance of ensuring justice for these oppressed people can be utilized.

At first, we wanted to resolve the crisis through a bilateral agreement. A deal was signed between the two neighbours as well. But, our Foreign Ministry has failed to bring any positive outcomes in this regard. 

The United Nations has taken cognizance of the offences committed by the Myanmar authorities, but its initiatives did not go far enough because of vetoes cast by Russia and China in the Security Council.

So, the ministry must act proactively over the humanitarian catastrophe.

Is there any particular method that Bangladesh could follow in bringing the offenders to book? 

There are several methods, and Dhaka could follow anyone of them. 

The ICC is situated in The Hague. If the UN Security Council wants, then they can establish an international crimes tribunal in a third country considered to be acting properly and impartially. Such tribunal could be established in Indonesia or Thailand or Malaysia [as these countries are in the close vicinity of both Bangladesh and Myanmar].  

If the international court deals with the case, the crisis could be resolved in a quickest possible time, and the Rohingyas would get back their fundamental rights and return home safely. 

Our country should gather and provide all necessary documents to the court, responding to its call.      

Will any possible positive response to the ICC’s request hamper the repatriation of Rohingyas?

I don’t think cooperation with the court will affect the repatriation process. The repatriation deal outlines how Myanmar will take back its citizens from Bangladesh after verification. 

However, there is no visible headway in the repatriation process. It seems that the initiative has failed. 

From the very beginning we demanded stopping atrocities against these people and creating a buffer zone for them under the supervision of the UN.

But now, it looks like we have no alternative but to make them [the Myanmar authorities] realize the fact that they will have to face punishment for what they have done against the Rohingyas. 

Furthermore, we should keep mounting pressure on Myanmar so they agree to create a buffer zone as soon as possible. 

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