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Dhaka Tribune

HC: Indemnity for Operation Clean Heart illegal

Update : 13 Sep 2015, 07:27 PM

The High Court has declared illegal and unconstitutional the law which legitimised the “Operation Clean Heart,” a controversial drive launched by the army and other law enforcers that lasted from October 16, 2002 to January 9, 2003.

Scrapping the Joint Drive Indemnity Act 2003 yesterday, the court also said that any aggrieved person or victim of the operation can seek compensation from the government. They can file writ petitions with the High Court, or civil or criminal cases with any other court.

It also found that the law which provides indemnity to the security force personnel involved in the operation violates the constitution.

The bench of Justice Moyeenul Islam Chowdhury and Justice Ashraful Kamal passed the order following a writ petition that was filed by Supreme Court lawyer ZI Khan Panna on June 14, 2012 challenging the Indemnity Act.

The BNP-Jamaat alliance government passed the Act to give indemnity to the military personnel and members of other law enforcement agencies who carried out the countrywide operation.

The then government claimed that the operation had been conducted to “restore” law and order in the country while the Awami League, then in opposition, alleged it had been launched to suppress their leaders and supporters. After the deaths, the government categorically claimed that the victims had died in “heart attacks.”

According to the US embassy cables published by whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, at least 56 people were killed and several hundred sustained injuries following torture during the anti-crime crackdown, most of which were attributed to heart attacks.

The Indemnity Act, passed on February 24, 2003, says no victim can seek justice, no cases or petitions can be filed against anyone involved with the operation.

The deaths and injuries, and the subsequent passage of the Indemnity Act created hype among the rights activists who termed the killings extrajudicial.

In response to the petition, the High Court bench of Justice Mirza Hussain Haider and Justice Kazi Mohammad Ejarul Haque Akondo on July 29 the same year issued a rule asking the government as to why the indemnity should not be declared illegal and conflicting with the constitution. The secretaries to the law, home and defence ministries, the Army Headquarters’ commander-in-chief and the inspector general of police were asked to respond to the ruling.

It also asked the government as to why a fund of Tk100 crore should not be created to compensate the victims. 

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