Power Of Attorney In Bangladesh

Does Extra Judicial Killings Diminish Public Faith on Judicial System of Bangladesh?

Every democratic country has its own system of administration and Bangladesh being a democratic one has the status of People’s Republic of Government of Bangladesh. The fundamental rights of the Citizens of our country have been guaranteed by the Constitution which has been promulgated in 1972.  Comparatively Bangladesh has a more struggling history in getting independence and it has to build up itself as there a bloody war had been taken place between Pakistan (the then West Pakistan) and Bangladesh (the then East Pakistan) for the independence of Bangladesh in 1971. After getting independence it had only succeeded to set up a stirring judicial system which is frequently observed failing to giving adequate remedies to the victims. The most dangerous thing is that often it is observed that the law- enforcing agencies and similar organizations used to kill people in their custody.

Now come to the meaning of the aforesaid term “Extra Judicial Killing”. Though we cannot completely define “Extra Judicial Killing” through any legal term, a temporary definition of an extrajudicial killing is a death caused by a law enforcement official without following the legal rules or due judicial process.

According to the legal Dictionary the meaning of the term “Extra Judicial” is as follows:

“That which is done, given, or effected outside the course of regular judicial proceedings. Not founded upon, or unconnected with, the action of a court of law.”[1]

For consolidating our real and perceived gains we have created useful laws and relevant institutions. Of the individual rights guaranteed within the constitutional framework of a state, some have been characterized as the most essential or fundamental to our existence as human race. These are universally regarded as birth rights and are inseparable from us, i.e., ‘inalienable’ of human being. Right to life, liberty, conscience, right to freedom of movement and speech, freedom from torture and inhuman treatment are agreed to be the pre-requisite for overall development of a human person including physical, mental, intellectual, cultural and spiritual development.

Constitution is the Supreme law of our country[2] and thus it is the constitution which guarantees these fundamental rights.  But as a poorly developed country, Bangladesh faces lots of constraints to give its citizens access to these fundamental rights. In part three of the Constitution, the fundamental rights are enunciated and guaranteed. Besides Article 3[3], article 7, article 11[4], article 27[5], article 31[6], article 32[7]and lastly article 44(1)[8] also directed to enforce fundamental rights in a democratic system of government.

Extra judicial killings by law enforcement agencies are common in Bangladesh. In 1972, the paramilitary group Jatiya Rakkhi Bahini came into force and had become infamous for its extrajudicial executions until it was absorbed into the army in 1975. Now, since the formation of the elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) in March 2004, such killings are again on the rise and are being categorised under a new vocabulary of “crossfire,” “extrajudicial killings,” “encounters,” etc.In most cases, victims who die in the custody of RAB and other police personnel, are later announced to have been killed during “crossfire” or police “shoot-outs”. In whichever named is given, these are all extra judicial killings.

Over the last few years including the period before and after the Emergency rule (January 2007-December 2008),these types of extra judicial killings by law enforcing agencies ,custodial death and torture have evidently been on the rise. One of the reasons behind was lack of proper investigations.

Though the Judiciary has no liability in these killings, considering as a severe type of injustice, the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh has taken some steps towards it to uphold the Constitutional rights. In 2010 a Division Bench comprising Justice AFM Abdur Rahman and Justice Md. Emdadul Haque Azad passed the Suo Moto[9] rule after reading newspaper articles regarding the death of two siblings’ Lutfor Khalashi and Khairul Khalashi- who ere killed while in custody of RAB-8 in Madaripur.

The Court asked the Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Director General of the RAB, Commander of the RAB-8 and a Major of RAB, who arrested the siblings in person, to respond.  This became the first ever suo motu rule from any court in Bd regarding alleged extra- judicial killings. However, the aforesaid bench was dissolved by the Chief Justice immediately before the date for hearing apparently for some Government’s administrative reasons. One legal person can easily understand that the judiciary has been made in-effective by the administration itself. But the mass people of our country do not used to have much legal knowledge and that they tend to be hopeless with the judiciary and think that the entire faults are in the judiciary. Here starts the diminishing of public faith towards judicial system. Though it cannot be said that our judicial system is wholly faultless, but it is the truth that it hardly has to do with the arbitrary extra judicial killing by the executive. Public faith on Judicial system depends on some particular factors . These are: rule of law, easy access to justice, immediate legal action, justice on time and non-interference of the executive organs of the state. 

The most pathetic event occurs when the victims are to die at the time of being in the legal custody of police, RAB or such kinds of law enforcing agencies. The legal meaning of ‘police custody’ is as follow:

“A seizure or forcible restraint; an exercise of the power to deprive a person of his or her liberty; the taking or keeping of a person in custody by legal authority, especially, in response to a criminal charge.”[10]

If we look upon few statistics, then we can realize the danger of this capricious death. According to the human rights organizations reports on extra judicial killings, 396 people have been killed in 2005, 355 people have been killed in 2005, 184 people have been killed in 2007, 149 people have been killed in 2008, 229 people have been killed in 2009, 133 people have been killed in 2010 and at least 15 people have been killed in this year in extra judicially by the law enforcers.[11]

We can consider the chart below for understanding the level of such Extra Judicial killing in our country:

Crossfire Killings in 2005[12]
Number of Deaths in Crossfire with
RAB Police Chita-Corba Total
January 12 39 3 54
February 2 28 30
March 2 19 21
April 1 22 23
May 15 25 40
Total 32 133 3 168

Looking through a legal prism, we can see that there are so many bars have given by our constitution to the judicial system to give any accused person a death sentence , but there is no bar when it is done by without lawful authority and even without lawful proceedings by the law-enforcing agencies.

Such unlawful occurrence, which is a great threat to the humanity as well as inconsistent with the constitution and other treaties, must be stopped without any further delay. Because Article 35(5) of the constitution of Bangladesh and Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Such killings by the law-enforcing agencies are prohibited by the Constitution and national laws, as well as by various international instruments that Bangladesh has ratified. The government of Bangladesh, as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, should upheld the highest standards in the field of human rights. Moreover, Government should also take concrete and immediate measures to fight the impunity prevailing in the country and put an immediate end to extra-judicial execution. The y should must act immediately to lift the police ban and protect the right to peaceful expression in words, images or any other media in accordance with Bangladesh’s constitution and international law otherwise the public faith on the judicial system will be diminished totally. More legal NGOs should also come up with the public interest litigation to lessen the burden of the helpless victims.

Bibliography:

  1. http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Extrajudicial
  2. http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Police+custody
  3. http://www.eurobangla.org/?p=1616:
  4. Source: Odhikar, a legal NGO.

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[1] http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Extrajudicial

[2] Article 7 of the Constitution of Bangladesh says: “This Constitution is as the solemn expression of the will  of the people, the supreme law of the republic, and if any other law is inconsistent with this constitution that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.”

[3] Article 3 says : Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

[4] Article 11 says : the republic shall be a democracy in which fundamental human rights and freedoms and respect for the dignity and worth of the human person shall be guaranteed.

[5] Article 27 says : all citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law.

[6] Article 31 says : to enjoy the protection of the law, and to be treated in accordance with law, is the inalienable right.

[7] Article 32 says:  no person shall be deprived of life, liberty save in accordance with law.

[8] Article 44(1) says: the right to move the High Court Division in accordance with  cause 1 of article 102, for the enforcement of the rights conferred by this part is guaranteed.

[9] Suo motu:  Upon one’s own initiative. Usually used when a court of law, upon its own initiative, (i.e., no petition has been filed) proceeds against a person or authority that it deems has committed an illegal act

[10] http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Police+custody

[11] http://www.eurobangla.org/?p=1616:

[12]Source: Odhikar, a legal NGO.

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