Human rights activists say these are ‘extrajudicial killings’ and a gross violation of constitutional rights
Between January and September, 413 people have fallen victim to ‘extrajudicial killings,’ putting the average number to a little under 46 a month, a report by leading human rights watchdog Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) says.
Of the total deaths, 260 people were killed in gunfights or crossfire. Of them, 122 were killed by Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), 184 by police, 44 by Detective Branch of police, one by naval police, three in a joint operation of RAB and Border Guard Bangladesh. Another three were reportedly tortured to death by police and two by DB officials.
Rights activists say such killings by security forces are a violation of the constitutional rights to life and justice. They said such killings in the election year were alarming.
Sheepa Hafiza, executive director of Ain o Salish Kendra, told the Dhaka Tribune that killing criminals in the name of crossfire is a violation of human rights.
“The offenders should be brought to justice, but this is not happening.
“This is not acceptable in a democratic society as every person has the right to justice. If punishment is decided through the rule of law, people will trust the law more,” she said.
She also pointed out that most of the extrajudicial killings occurred during the recent anti-drug operation.
“These sudden anti-drug raids have raise suspicion in the public mind. There are laws and mechanisms to control drug trade in the country. Why are these not working?” she asked.
“We support the anti-narcotic law, but it is necessary to involve local people in carrying out such operations. Because locals are aware of drug dealings and drug dealers. If operations were carried out in proper way, such extra judicial killings would have been reduced,” said Sheepa Hafiza.
Extra-judicial killing, custodial death
Nawab Ali Molla, 38, a detained accused, was allegedly killed in a gunfight with police in Satkhira Sadar upazila on April 29. He was accused in 15 cases in connection with robbery, murder and hijacking motorbikes.
Teenager Emon, 19, who was taken into custody over a murder case, was killed during an alleged shootout with police in Nandail Upazila of Mymensingh district on May 18. In both the incidents, police said the two were killed in gunfight between police and miscreants.
Ekramul Haque, a local municipal councillor at Teknaf, was killed in 'gunfight' on May 26. Later, his family released an audio clip holding a press conference on May 31, which caused more controversy about the involvement of the law enforcers with such killings.
Human rights activist Nur Khan Liton told the Dhaka Tribune that there are two reasons for the frequency of “crossfire” incidents: First: the government uses shortcuts to improve law and order, and second: it intends to create an atmosphere of fear to dissuade protests.
“People believe that if there is fear of ‘crossfire,’ then those who wish to stand against the government in the upcoming polls will stay hidden,” he added.
“It is not just ‘crossfire.’ People also think that false cases and threats of detention are creating an atmosphere of fear in the country.”
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque said killing people in the name of crossfire is unacceptable.
“The law enforcers should take care that no one become a victim of extrajudicial killing while they are enforcing the law.”
He suggested that the home ministry prepare a guideline on the subject.
“If we follow our constitution, penal code, police regulations and acts, we can reduce complaints about extrajudicial killings during operations, even if we cannot bring it down to zero,” he said.
The Dhaka Tribune tried to contact Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal over phone, but the phone remained unanswered.
The minister, in different programs, has said that the incidents are not crossfire, they are gunfights.
“During the nationwide anti-drug operation; drug traders attacked the police, and most of them were killed when police opened fire for self- defence,” he said.
When high profile drug dealers are identified or caught by law enforcement agencies, they either go into hiding or engage in gunfights.
“The law permits the self-defence of law enforcers,” he said.