Every single incident of murder and extra judicial killing should face international investigation
Recently various local and international news agencies published separate reports claiming that the incidents of extra judicial killings are increasing rampantly in Bangladesh.
Seventy-nine people were killed either in alleged crossfires or in custody of the law enforcement agencies during the first six months of this year, according to rights organisation Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK).
Thirty of them were killed in “crossfires” with police, 24 with Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) and seven with Detective Branch (DB) police, said an ASK report published recently. The report is based on reports published in major national dailies.
Besides, one was killed in alleged gunfight with a joint team of police and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), six were killed in torture by police and BGB and six in DB and police firings, the report said.
Four died due to illness while one died mysteriously at the custody of a police station, it added.
During this period, law enforcement officers in plainclothes picked up 50 people. Of them, six were found dead, four shown arrested and two others were released later.
According to the ASK report, murder and torture of children increased at an alarming rate. In the last six months, 591 children were tortured in various ways and 235 were killed.
“Fifteen children had committed suicide after the torture,” the ASK report reads.
Signed by ASK’s Assistant Director Jafrin Sattar, the report said total 693 violent incidents took place centering the Union Parishad election held in six phases across the country. About 142 people were killed and 9,085 injured in polls-related violence.
In the last six months, five members of Hindu community including a principal, priest and volunteer of a monastery were killed and 66 houses, 49 idols and temples had been vandalised.
Since January, 42 persons died in jail custody, says the report, adding that among the dead, 14 were inmates and 28 detainees.
7 killed in `gunfights', 5 bullet-hit bodies recovered in 10 months in Jhenaidah
Recently a detailed report has been published in renowned Bengali Daily ‘Prothom Alo’ which claimed that Seven people were killed in what the police called gunfight and five other bodies with bullet wounds were recovered in the last ten months in the country’s south-western district of Jhenaidah.
Apart from these, the bodies of two people were recovered after they died in a reported road accident-one under the wheels of a train and the other under a bus.
Twelve of the total 14 victims of either extra-judicial killing or reported accidents are the members of an opposition political party, Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami.
Although the law enforcement agencies claimed that they were killed in shootouts with them, the family members of most of the victims said they were picked up by law enforcers before they were killed in gunfire.
Of late, two Jamaat leaders were killed in a ‘gunfight’ with the police in Jhenaidah. The police claimed that the gunfight took place in the early hours of Tuesday morning on the Jhenaidah-Magura highway in Bhutiargati.
The families of the two Jamaat leaders said the victims were picked up by a group of people identifying themselves as members of police’s Detective Branch (DB) several days ago.
They are: Jhenaidah municipality Jamaat ameer Zahurul Islam, 42, son of Shamsher Ali Molla of Water Development Board Colony of the town and Jamaat activist Tareque Hasan, 40, son of late Abdul Latif of sadar upazila’s Ramchandrapur village. Tareque Hasan was a herbal physician.
According to the claim of Jhenaidah additional superintendent Azbahar Ali Sheikh, a patrol team tried to stop three motorcycles on the road around 4:00am for their suspicious movements.
The challenged bike riders opened fire and hurled crude bombs at the police, prompting them to retaliate, triggering a gunfight, the police officer claimed.
He said the motorcyclists were suspected to be going to somewhere to carry out saboteur acts.
However, Zahurul’s brother-in-law Lokman Hossain said a group of people identifying themselves as DB members detained Zahurul on 7 September from Jhenaidah town’s Alhera area and since theh he has been missing.
Tareque’s paternal cousin Faruk Hossain said members of the police detained Tareque on 13 September night from Arabpur area and he has also been missing since then.
Earlier on 30 July, a man named Ramzan Ali, 46, was killed in an alleged gunfight in Katakhali of district’s Moheshpur upazila.
The police claimed that Ramzan Ali was a member of a robber gang.
An activist of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami’s student wing Bangladesh Islami Chhatra Shibir, Saiful Islam, was killed in an alleged ‘shootout’ with police in Aruakandi graveyard area of Jhenaidah sadar upazila on 18 July.
Before that, two Shibir leaders-Shahid Al Mahmud and Anisur Rahman-were killed in what the police called an encounter on 24 June in Tentulbaria village of the sadar upazila.
On 25 June, former president of Jhenaidah town’s Shibir unit Ibnul Islam Parvez was killed in a reported gunfight in the town’s Madhupur graveyard area.
The bodies of Jhenaidah’s Kaliganj municipality unit Shibir president Abu Jar Giffari and a Shibir activist Shamim Hossain were recovered from Joradah village’s playground in sadar upazila of the nearby district of Jessore on 13 April.
The family members claimed that they were picked by people identifying themselves to be DB men.
The bullet-ridden body of a Shibir activist of Ishwarba village of the district’s Kaliganj upazila, Sohanur Rahman, was recovered from Chuadanga. He was also picked up by DB member impersonators.
The body of a Jhenaidah madarsa teacher, Abu Huraira, also a Jamaat activist, was recovered from Jessore on 29 February this year.
The bullet-hit body of another Shibir activist, Jasim Uddin, was recovered from Hingerpara village on 4 March. The family members of the victims alleged that Abu Huraira was picked up earlier by DB member impersonators while Jasim Uddin was picked by a group of people claiming to be members of police.
Besides, the body of a certain Shariful Islam of Jessore’s Shasthitala village was found at Kaliganj’s Fulbari railway gate on 2 February. His body had been severed by train wheels while the superintendent of a Harinakundu madrasa, Panna Hujur, died in road accident in August.
But family members of both of the victims claimed that Shariful was picked up by people claiming to be DB men while Panna was detained by police impersonators a week before the incidents of the killing.
One injured in Kaliganj ‘gunfight’:
A man named Nasir Uddin, 50, was injured in what the police called a gunfight on Barobazar-Taherpur road in Dhopadi area of district Kaliganj upazila in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
The police claimed Nasir to be a member of an inter-district robbery gang, but Nasir who is now undergoing treatment at a local hospital said he is a truck driver and alleged the police shot him in his leg.
In order to prove his claim of being a truck driver, Nasir said he was elected twice as the road secretary of Kaliganj-Kotchandpur and Moheshpur Motor Sramik Union.
Barobazar police outpost sub-inspector Nazrul Islam binned Nasir allegation. The police officer claimed that Nasir was wanted in several cases.
Enforced Disappearances Rise in Bangladesh; reports Voice of America
Ruhul Amin, a street hawker in the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka, has desperately searched for his missing son for four years.
Mohammad Imam Hassan was kidnapped in 2012 – and rescued the next day by Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion. But the paramilitary force still hasn’t freed the man.
"When I went to the officers of RAB seeking return of my son, they demanded 100,000 takas," Amin told VOA. But the amount, equivalent to $1,276, was more than he could afford. "I said I was very poor and finally I paid 40,000 takas ($510) to them. Despite their promise to return my son to me within a few days, I have not got back my son as yet."
Amin sought help from "security agencies, the high court and the human rights groups, but no help came my way," he said. "… I know nothing of his whereabouts. I don’t even know whether he is dead or alive."
Hassan’s case is not an isolated one in Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi human rights group Odhikar reports that, in the past five years, at least 298 people have vanished through enforced disappearances. Of those, 39 were found dead and 138 returned alive. The rest have not been seen.
The group counted and documented only cases in which witnesses alleged the victims were taken by men who appeared to be from law enforcement agencies.
Another Bangladeshi rights group, Ain-o-Salish Kendra (ASK), counted at least 70 victims of enforced disappearances between January and September of this year, up from 55 through all of last year.
"Following our fact-finding work, in many cases we strongly suspect that the law enforcement agencies of the state were involved in the enforced disappearances," ASK executive director Nur Khan told VOA.
Allegations of enforced disappearances began surfacing in Bangladesh soon after Sheikh Hasina Wazed led her Awami League (AL) to power in 2009. She remains prime minister.
Human rights groups say about half the victims have been leaders and workers of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led opposition alliance.
BNP Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi Ahmed accused the government of victimizing his party members.
"We are sure that these disappearances are the handiwork of the law enforcement agencies, and these activities are being supported by the state," Ahmed said. "In the past seven years, the BNP-led alliance [has had] at least 70 leaders and workers, including two former members of parliament, disappeared this way. The law enforcement agencies are indulging in such inhuman activities following the command of the government, to protect the interest of the ruling party."
A government spokesman rejected the charge.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said the allegation that the government is pursuing a policy of "enforced disappearance is totally baseless." He said security agencies investigated many cases of alleged enforced disappearances and found that individuals had gone into hiding on their own "to embarrass the government globally."
BNP leader AKM Wahiduzzaman said enforced disappearances are taking place in the country "mostly to annihilate the opposition force."
"These enforced disappearances are aimed at taking away the political rights of the opposition parties. Those opposition party members, who are critical of the government over many issues and are exposing its malpractices, are turning the victims of the enforced disappearance," Wahiduzzaman told VOA. "The law of the land will come into effect to deal with the cases of enforced disappearances when the regime changes. It will seek to ensure justice to the families who have lost their near and dear ones."
Human rights concerns
Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director of Human Rights Watch, said his group recently issued a statement protesting the alleged enforced disappearance in August of three sons of Bangladeshi opposition leaders.
"There is clear evidence that the three men are in government custody, but shockingly the authorities continue to deny holding them, and there has been no further news about them or their whereabouts since their arrests," Robertson said.
"In the buildup to the January 2014 elections, thousands of opposition party members were arrested and labeled as terrorists for their alleged participation in election-related protests. Sheikh Hasina and her government have continuously blurred the line between opposition political party members and terrorist or militant forces."
Legal rights activist Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman, liaison officer of the Hong Kong-based Asian Legal Resource Center (ALRC), blamed the police and judiciary for the rise in enforced disappearances.
“In Bangladesh, the justice institutions appear to be designed to protect the status quo, siding [with] the powerful elites of the day. As long as the police and judiciary complement each other to protect the agenda of the incumbent government, it’s difficult to see an end to this practice of enforced disappearances in the country,” Ashrafuzzaman told VOA.
Robertson said Bangladesh’s practice of ensuring impunity for security forces to abuse rights, combined with the government’s reliance on those abusive practices, creates an environment in which enforced disappearances and other violations can continue.
For now, Ruhul Amin and others like him will keep searching for their missing loved ones.
Each and every individual’s life is precious. No one has the right to snatch it away by any means. The trend of extra judicial killings must be stopped right now. A complete, comprehensive and impartial investigation should be carried out for all the incidents of murder and extra judicial killings. Due to various good reasons, we have lost confidence upon the domestic investigation agencies. In this backdrop, an impartial investigation team should be formed comprising the local and foreign experts and these brutal and heinous incidents should be investigated by such an internationally recognized team. Otherwise, human rights and democracy will not be protected in Bangladesh.