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Extrajudicial killings: A death every day

  • Published at 12:58 am December 29th, 2019
Extra-judicial-killings_Final

Between Jan 1 and Nov 30, more than 350 people have been killed in ‘gunfights,’ according to ASK

Over the past one year, at least one death has occurred due to extrajudicial killings in Bangladesh.

Between January 1 and November 30, records by human rights watchdog Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) show that 362 people died in “crossfires,” torture, “shoot-outs,” “illness,” and “suicide” while in the custody of various law enforcement agencies.

The most notorious example of an extrajudicial killing this year was that of Sabbir Ahmed Nayan alias Nayan Bond, the prime accused in the murder of Rifat Sharif in Barguna.Nayan was killed in a reported “gunfight” with police in Barguna on July 2.

“Nayan and his cohorts opened fire at the police team after encountering them, triggering a gunfight. Nayan was killed on the spot after police returned fire in defence,” said Maruf Hossain, the then superintendent of police (SP) of Barguna. 

The description of the “gunfight” was not a letter removed from the narrative offered every time by every law enforcement agency.

The age-old “crossfire” narrative remained the most popular cause of deaths, racking up 335, as opposed to “10 shoot-outs.”

Even so, the annual tally looks to be less than last year, which had 466 instances of extrajudicial killings, a mind-boggling jump from 162 in 2017, 195 in 2016, and 192 in 2015.

According to an Amnesty International report from November, Bangladesh authorities have allegedly killed hundreds of people under the guise of an anti-drugs campaign that began in 2018.

There are allegations of enforced disappearances and fabricating evidence by the law enforcement agencies in these suspected extrajudicial executions, as per the report.

It also reveals how the Bangladeshi authorities have failed to investigate deaths of people allegedly killed in “gunfights.” The 466 suspected extrajudicial executions in 2018 alone marked a threefold increase from 2017, and the highest in a single year in several decades.

The report says instead of launching proper investigations into these killings, the authorities reportedly sought to fabricate evidence to support their claims.

At least five witnesses interviewed by Amnesty International said that they were involuntarily taken to the spot after the incident. They said they could not refuse police requests to act as witnesses, fearing harsh consequences. Security forces have taken signatures, names, phone numbers, and personal details of the witnesses.

“We did not see anything,” one such “witness” told Amnesty International, seeking anonymity. 

“They called, and took me with them to the location around 5:30am, and asked me to witness what they were taking from there. I only saw a motorbike, and nothing else.”

All the victims of the supposed gunfights appear to have been forcibly disappeared by the police or RAB prior to their deaths. When relatives sought information of their whereabouts, the authorities either denied they were in their custody, or refused to say where they are.

Md Nur Khan, member of the Executive Committee of Ain O Salish Kendra, said: “Though the killings in the war on drugs has fallen, custodial deaths have risen. There are some methodical changes. When enforced disappearance increases, custodial death decreases.

“From my observation for the last 10 to 12 years, I suspect when the state is involved in these killings, it is always planned. It is a shortcut to adjust law and order, or to spread panic in society, or suppress political opposition or protests.”

When asked why extrajudicial killings are not decreasing, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told Dhaka Tribune: “When criminal activities decline, so will the extrajudicial killings.”

Claiming that the law enforcement agencies do not actively commit extrajudicial killing, he said: “They only fire in self-defence, they never shoot first.”

Extrajudicial deaths tied to agencies (Jan-Nov ‘19)

 Police

 179

 RAB

 97

 BGB

 53

 Miscellaneous

 33

 Source: Ain O Salish Kendra