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OP-ED: Why extra-judicial killings harm the integrity of the state

  • Published at 09:23 pm August 12th, 2020
Extrajudicial killings
Representational image

A better system of accountability is needed

There are 23 fundamental rights as contained in our constitution. The fundamental rights are prescribed from Article 26 to 47A. Articles 31 and 32 of the Constitution of Bangladesh are meant to protect the fundamental rights. 

According to Article 32: “No person shall be deprived of life or personal liberty, save in accordance with the law.” But despite guarantee by the constitution, in the current situation, the right to life and liberty are under threat in Bangladesh. 

The main reason behind this is the culture of extra-judicial killings. Every day, we see this issue -- extra-judicial killing -- an offense that cannot be overlooked by any peace-loving people. 

According to statistics by Odhikar, from 2001 to 2020 up to June, a total of 4,002 people have been killed in this way. Where in 2001 the number was just 44, this year the number is already 158. 

If this continues, no one knows how many people will be added to this list. Extra-judicial killing is not only Bangladesh’s problem. Many countries such as the Philippines and India are familiar with this issue and continue to fail their citizens in this regard. 

In India’s widely talked Disha rape and murder case of Hyderabad, the police shot dead four young boys last December. Mohammed Shiva, Naveen, Chennakesavulu, and Areef were accused of the crime with no sustainable evidence. 

No court of law proclaimed them guilty. On July 2, 2020, a team of the UP police set out on an “encounter” mission, but its target got the greater of the police and rather killed eight of the policemen in the encounter. Although in 1997, India signed the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT), it is still to ratify it.

On June 4, 2020, an article was published in The Guardian, where a UN report found that Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has directed over a war on drugs that has led to tens of thousands of people being victims of extra-judicial killings. It states the government figures indicate at least 8,663 people have been killed, but some measures put the deaths at triple that number.

Recently in Bangladesh, Retired Major Sinha Mohammed Rashed Khan, who took voluntary retirement two years ago, was killed in a police firing on July 31, 2020, at a check-post in Cox’s Bazar, triggering an uproar across the country. 

Like these incidents, there are many issues that create problems all over the world. In Bangladesh, extra-judicial killings not only violate the constitution of the country, but also the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

According to Article 5 of the UDHR, “No one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.” Extra-judicial killing is a total violation of this article because it is approached as an inhuman and cruel act all over the world.

The law-making body is being undermined, and law enforcement agencies are losing credibility. That means, every occurrence of extra-judicial killing is an attack on the backbone of the state, as the state comprises of the parliament, the government, and statutory public authorities.

The government has made improvements in many sectors, but when it comes to human rights, Bangladesh has always suffered from “ill-health.” As a democratizing country with a well-established judicial system, the rule of law needs to be established. 

Extra-judicial killings are obvious violations of the rule of law, which is an emerging threat for Bangladesh and democracy. If anyone conducted any crime the person should be punished by the court.  

No agency can decide who gets to live and who will die. In the eye of the law, everyone is innocent before they are proven guilty by the court. So, everyone has to realize that no one is guilty without any legal justification. 

We need to ensure that in future, no citizen dies like this -- we need to stop extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances. Accountability is needed. The only justified way to ensure this accountability is by a system of independent and neutral investigation and fair and open trials. If we cannot ensure this, and if it continues, then the question remains: How many people will be added to this list? 

Md Fahmedul Islam Dewan is a student of law.

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