Friday, December 16, 2011

Govt. too busy to listen to secret killing charges

As the Awami League-led government is busy with its political programme to try the opponents on charges of crimes committed during the war of liberation 40 years ago, it has little time to ponder over the present alarming situation of killing, abduction and disappearances of citizens especially when the broader allegation is against the law enforcing agencies.

The victims include innocent citizens, political opponents, businessmen, local government representatives, students and youth leaders.

According to newspaper reports and the records of Human rights organizations, at least 22 persons went missing in and around Dhaka city during eleven months of this year. Of them, ten were recovered dead while others still remain missing. 

At least 12 persons, including Narsingdi municipal mayor, were killed by unknown assailants in Narsingdi district alone in last month (November). 

Meanwhile, 1,350 unidentified bodies were recovered from the desolate and marshy land in different parts of the country, mostly from the outskirts of the capital, in the last 10 months. Many of the deceased were victims of secret killings, human rights organization said.    

Anjuman-Mofidul Islam the only private organization in the country involved with the burial of unidentified bodies said they have buried 1,103 bodies in last 10 months in capital city alone. Anjuman-Mofidul Islam in Chatagong also buried 239 unidentified bodies. 

At least 1,204 bodies were buried as “unidentified” by Anjuman-Mofidul Islam in the year 2010 while 296 in 2009 respectively. Anjuman has buried a total 3,437 bodies during the last 10 years.

Police recovered 15 unidentified bodies from Ashulia, Turag, Keraniganj and bypass areas last week alone.
On the occasion of the world human rights day, a Bengali daily reported that at least 100 persons were missing all over the country. In most of the cases, law enforcing agencies were accused of the abductions and consequent denial of their involvement. 

The law enforcing authorities are worried with the increasing incidents of secret killings but accuse professional killers of committing the crimes who disguise themselves as members of law enforcing agencies.
“The law enforcing agencies have been investigating every allegation of secret killing,” Home Minister Sahara Khatun said while briefing reporters at her office Wednesday. Shara Khatun reiterated her very favourite statement: “The law and order situation is better than any time before” 

However, the main opposition BNP has categorically accused the ruling Awami League of executing ‘planned murders’ in the country through numerous extrajudicial killings. 

“Continuous silent killings are a proof that the government is using its forces to carry out killings,” acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said last Sunday at a press briefing at the party’s Naya Paltan headquarters.

“Unidentified bodies are recovered every now and then from the outskirts of Dhaka city and remote places. The government forces pick up people and kill them without trial. We believe the government has direct link with these killings.” 

Meanwhile, Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal, the student wing of BNP observed a three-day-long protest last week against ‘killing’ of three of their activists namely Shamim Hossain Sohel of Dhaka University, and Ismail Hossain Al-Amin and Masum Hossain.

The body of Ismail was recovered. Ismail’s body was recovered from Dhalehswari river near Munshiganj 11 days after he went missing.

“The three were picked up by people claiming to be RAB personnel. No step has been taken despite informing police. This shows the government is directly linked to the killings,” the BNP leader added.
Referring to statistics of various rights bodies, Fakhrul said 200 people have gone missing in November-December with 27 of them going missing in the last as many days. 

JCD chief Sultan Salauddin Tuku said, “The incumbent government is carrying out assassinations like the BAKSAL regime of 1970s and justice is being denied.” He alleged that the police did not act even after Ismail’s mother Nasima Begum filed two general diaries with Kalabagan police. “Only six months back, organising secretary of the wing’s Uttara unit Noor Hossain Hiru went missing in the same manner and he is still traceless,” the student leader added. 

Various human rights bodies including the National Human Rights Commission have expressed their anxiety at the increased frequency of such occurrences. 

All allegations are alike and in most of the cases, the victims are picked up by people introducing themselves as law officers, especially as Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) personnel. However, RAB officials routinely deny.
‘Line of fire’

RAB is now using the term ‘line of fire’ instead of its earlier jargon “cross-fire” that earned a bad name for the elite force. 

On December 8, a leader of Purba Banglar Communist Party, Mokaddes Ali Malitha, was killed in a shootout between his cohorts and members of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) in Alamdanga upazila in Chuadanga. Mokaddes was caught in the line of fire and died on the spot, said RAB-6 commander Captain Hasanur Rahman adding that Mokaddes was wanted in 10 cases including 5 for murder.

Only in August this year, the Amnesty International asked the Bangladesh authorities that they must honour their pledge to stop extrajudicial executions by a special police force accused of involvement in hundreds of killings. 

In its report, Crimes unseen: Extrajudicial executions in Bangladesh documented how the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) justify their killings as accidental or as a result of officers acting in self-defence, although in reality many victims are killed following their arrest. 

“Hardly a week goes by in Bangladesh without someone being shot by RAB with the authorities saying they were killed or injured in ‘crossfire’ or a ‘gun-fight’. However the authorities choose to describe such incidents, but the fact remains that they are suspected unlawful killings,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Bangladesh researcher.  

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Extrajudicial killings all around

THE spate of extrajudicial killing still continues. This time, 11 men in Bhola became victim of such killing on Wednesday afternoon. According to a report front-paged in New Age on Thursday, five people, suspected as pirates, along with a fisherman, got killed during a ‘gunfight’ involving the police. Moreover, five more suspected pirates, who escaped the ‘gunfight’, were later beaten to death by the mob. Suffice it to say, the killings in question necessarily point to, regardless of the oft-repeated claims of the incumbents otherwise, unabated slide in law and order on the one hand and growing public distrust of law enforcement agencies on the other.

The Awami League-Jatiya Party government assumed power in 2009 with the commitment, among others, that it would keep law and order under control and that it would stop all sorts of extrajudicial killing. 

Pertinently, it was highly critical of such kind of killing during the tenure of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led government in the past. Besides, it pledged on more occasions than one in the past three years or so before the leaders of different human rights organisations, national and international, that it will show zero tolerance towards such killing. Regrettably, however, it seems to have done little to make those words a reality. Worse still, it has consistently claimed that no extrajudicial killing has taken place during its tenure so far.

Meanwhile, apparently to evade criticism about extrajudicial killing, the law enforcers, especially the Rapid Action Battalion, have allegedly changed their tactics of execution in recent months. The new tactic involves enforced disappearances of alleged criminals. According to Odhikar, a rights organisation, a total of 359 people were killed in what the top brass of the law enforcers called ‘crossfire’, ‘shootout, ‘encounter’, etc in the past three years or so, while the number of victims of mob beating stood at 148 and enforced disappearances, 22, in the past 11 months.

Either way, the incumbents need to realise that what suffers most due to all this is the rule of law, and that if it is allowed to continue, society may plunge into lawlessness, endangering even the hard-earned democracy of the country. It immediately needs to do something decisive about arresting the surge in crimes as well as putting an end to all kinds of extrajudicial killings.

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