“Cross Fire” crosses the limit in Bangladesh. Law should be applied strictly to avoid such unlawful act. Explain and Illustrate.

 “Cross Fire” crosses the limit in Bangladesh. Law should be applied strictly to avoid such unlawful act. Explain and Illustrate.

1. INTRODUCTION:

Rapid Action Battalion which is generally known as RAB in Bangladesh. RAB is very well known for cross fire issue in Bangladesh and abroad. On March 26th in 2004 the RAB was formed by the government of Bangladesh National Party (BNP). RAB is the best anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of Bangladesh Police constituted modified by the Armed Police Battalion Ordinance, 1979. Under the command of Inspector General of Police (IGP) it consists of members of Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Air Force, Border Guards Bangladesh and Bangladesh Ansar[1].

The Rapid Action Battalion had started their operations from 14 April 2004 under the command of Additional Inspector General of Police named Anwarul Iqbal of the modified unit[2]. RAB members are better equipped and trained compared to the regular units of the Police. They started their work with the commitment of well-being in the country. As a result, they sized a total number of 3,149 illegal arms and more than 36,000 rounds of ammunition and it has also had many notable arrests according to the BBC report. Although the RAB was successful in arresting several high-profile terrorists, including the infamous Bangla Bhai, Amnesty International has criticized the RAB’s lack of accountability as it has been responsible for several deaths which have been attributed to crossfire. There have also been many reports of torture. Specifically, cross fire crosses the limit in Bangladesh which is obviously against the Human Rights. Not only in Bangladesh but also people from abroad raised their voices against the unlawful activities of Rapid Action Battalion, so law should be applied strictly to avoid such unlawful act of cross fire.

2. THE SCOPE OF THE RAB’S PRIMARY FUNCTIONS:

RAB was formed for anti-crime and anti-terrorism but their actions were unlawful and unacceptable. According to the affectivity, RAB was successful to create fear among the terrorist through the issue of cross fire but that was against the Human Rights. Generally RAB was so modified and well equipped; they had the effective administration in the Operations Wing-Planning & Co-ordination, Dog Squad, Bomb Disposal Unit, Intelligence Wing, Information Gathering, Undercover Surveillance, Counter Intelligence, and Communication Interception, In Legal & Media Wing they had Legal Cell and Media Cell, Communication & MIS Wing- Internal Communication Network, Database & Information Services, Investigation & Forensic Wing- Investigation Cell Forensic Cell, Air Wing, Aerial Surveillance & Imaging, Search & Rescue, Aerial Patrol, Counter Terrorism Operations, Transport Operations[3].

RAB was activated for some specific activities and operations such as Crime control or enforce the law, Peace-Keeping, Crime investigation and some special Emergency responses (Cross Fire in emergency situation). They have also the research and development sector named Research & Development Cell. RAB also has 12 battalion size field units spread all over the country. Among them 5 are located in the capital Dhaka. The units are located in R.A.B.-1  : Dhaka, R.A.B.-2  : Dhaka, R.A.B.-3  : Dhaka , R.A.B.-4  : Dhaka ,R.A.B.-5  : Rajshahi, R.A.B.-6  : Khulna, R.A.B.-7  : Chittagong, R.A.B.-8  : Barisal, R.A.B.-9  : Sylhet ,R.A.B.-10 : Dhaka, R.A.B.-11 : Narayanganj, R.A.B.-12 : Sirajganj[4].

3. RAPID ACTION BATTALION AND CROSSFIRE:

Rapid Action Battalion which is beyond the reach of the law in Bangladesh. It is responsible for escalating public anxiety about the level of crime and terrorism. Cross fire is one of those issues which were created more anxiety among the people. Through systemic violence and trademark “crossfire” killings, their great success has been the spreading of more panic and lawlessness throughout Bangladesh. The paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) continued to engage in extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals and others. The security forces euphemistically call these “crossfire killings”, falsely suggesting they are carried out in self defense. Such killings continued under the caretaker government. According to the Odhikar, a Dhaka based human rights monitoring organization, 126 people were killed by security forces during the first 210 days of emergency. Of them, 82 were allegedly killed in crossfire, while at least 23 others were allegedly tortured to death[5]. The most brutal was the March torture and killing of Choles Ritchil, a well known rights activist. Although eyewitnesses identified some of the perpetrators, the government failed to bring them to justice.

3.1 AFFECTS OF “CROSSFIRE”:

In late 2002 the government of Bangladesh issued an executive order that started a force to arrest “wanted criminals” and recover “illegal arms”. The order was aimed at curtailing a swift rise in cases of murder, extortion, kidnapping, and crimes against women by warring gangs that were supposedly linked to members of both the major political parties. Codenamed Operation Clean Heart, it comprised of army, police, village defense force, and border security personnel[6]. Operation Clean Heart and the Joint Drive protection Ordinance were the sequential and ideological mother and father of the Rapid Action Battalion. According to the statement of government in the broadest sense of the word, they felt necessity to use Rapid Action Battalion due to the “unstable law and order situation” in the country to establish a permanent joint anti-crime force along the lines of that used during the 86-Day Tragedy. At first, policymakers dreamed of a Rapid Action Team, a “RAT”, but somebody woke up in time and it was renamed RAB[7]. Bangladesh Government at that time was fully agreed with the activity of RAB, According to the statement of senior minister in Sheikh Hasina’s cabinet it has been said that the government will need to continue with extrajudicial killing, commonly called ‘crossfire,’ until terrorist activities and extortion is uprooted[8]. Extra judicial killings are a great human rights violation as well as it is the violation of the constitution and Universal Declaration of human rights.  From the documentation by the Bangladesh Institute of Human Rights it has been found that about 283 persons have “died during exchange of fire in crossfire and in the line of fire from since it was established up to mid-2006[9].  Crossfire killings, which are particularly associated with Bangladesh’s elite counter-terrorist unit, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), have been a hallmark of Bangladesh security operations for many years. Despite many Awami League lawmakers’ vows to end the practice since the government came to power, it is unclear what concrete steps the government will take to enforce this move. According to the survey of “ODHIKAR”, a Dhaka based human rights monitoring organization; numbers of killings from crossfire are given below:

Crossfire Killings in 2005
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

SOURCE: ODHIKAR’S Survey Report 2005, Crossfire Killings.

3.2 CROSSFIRE IS VIOLANCE OF HUMAN RIGHTS:

Despite repeated protests at home and abroad, extra-judicial killings by the law enforcers continue unabated, causing concern among the people.  Apart from constituting human rights violation, killings in the name of ‘crossfire’ or ‘encounter’ raise questions over the law enforcers’ training and skills in handling firearms. According to the report on Daily Start newspaper, it has been reported that about 458 people were killed in ‘crossfire’ between December 31, 2004, and December 31, 2007, while over a hundred others were killed in 2008 and another 24 in the last four months[10].

The RAB was legalized through the Armed Police Battalions (Amendment) Act 2003, which has its origins in the Armed Police Battalions Ordinance 1979. The amended law gives the RAB wide responsibilities, including “intelligence in respect of crime and criminal activities” and “investigation of any offence on the direction of the Government”[11].

In section 6B (1), it has been stated that the Government may, at any time, direct the Rapid Action Battalion to investigate any offence. Any offence, any time: that justifies the description of the RAB as hired guns[12]. That means the Government may, on any whim, use the Rapid Action Battalion to harass and otherwise maltreat any person, without cause, for its own purposes. The government of Bangladesh told the UN Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial executions that under the 2003 act the RAB is will be guided strictly by the Code of Criminal Procedure (E/CN.4/2004/7/Add.1, para. 26)[13]. But in reality that was not the situation what had been told to the UN special Rapporteurs, that was further from the truth. One small example can clear that thing, according to section 103 of the code, police who search a certain premises must first obtain two or more “respectable inhabitants” of the locality to witness the search and countersign any record of seized items but when RAB personnel take persons in their custody to search and retrieve weapons or other illegal objects from premises, they completely ignore this obligation. It is under these circumstances that RAB personnel conveniently get into “crossfire” and the person in their custody dies. Perhaps the RAB members are not complying with the code out of concern for the safety of the respectable inhabitants[14]. Anyhow, so far as Bangladesh is concerned the reference to the Code of Criminal Procedure is spurious for the reason that the code works primarily to block the possibility of any complaint against state officers which leads to a corrupted government.

Attempts by members of the judiciary to address the frequency of killings by “crossfire” seem to have been negligible. Magistrates and district judges are unreliable officials to call upon for redress in any case of abuse by state agents. As for the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Mohammad Habibor Rahman said (in January 2005), order was given to submit report against death caused by the crossfire[15].  The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has stated a number of cases of extrajudicial killings in Bangladesh. It is clear that such killings are one of the many big problems concerning human rights and rule of law in the country. The public of Bangladesh is aware of the trend and nature of the state-sponsored extrajudicial killings as a result of interventions and documentation done by civil society organizations as well as rights groups. After all Bangladesh’s record for human rights has deteriorated since 2004 after the introduction of the RAB, an elite force added to the existing contingent of the law enforcing agencies. They are accused by different human rights organizations of grave abuses of human rights, including extrajudicial summary execution, excessive use of force and the use of custodial torture. According to the Article 2 of the international Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Vol. 5, No. 4, because of torture, cross firing and other potent threats are clearly demarcated the freedom in Bangladesh[16].   This use of terror for social control optimistically referred to by the state as “law and order” is not only a human rights issue: it is also a fundamental development problem. The prevention of torture, extrajudicial killing and other grave abuses of human rights in Bangladesh is a huge task which will take maximum efforts for long years to come. It is a task that must involve all levels of people local, national and international[17].

3.3 LAW TO AVOID CROSSFIRE & UNLAWFUL ACT:

In Bangladesh we have huge numbers of laws but none of them are properly activated. Same story is happening in the case of crossfire, we have laws but no one to follow, according to the Article 31 of the constitution of Bangladesh, to enjoy the protection of law, and to be treated in accordance with law, is the inalienable right of every citizen, every person for the time being within Bangladesh, and in particular no action detrimental to the life, liberty, body, reputation or property of any person shall be taken except in accordance with law[18]. In Article 32 it has been said that the protection of the right to life and personal liberty will be ensured in accordance with the law[19]. A law providing for the deprivation of life or personal liberty must be objectively reasonable, and the court will inquire whether for an ordinary careful person such a law is reasonable, having regard to the compelling, and not merely legitimate, governmental interest. It must be shown that the security of the state or of society necessitates the deprivation of one’s life and personal liberty. According to the police regulations of Bengal (PRB), firearms should not be used other than in emergencies. The uses of firearms are applicable in three situations: for self-protection and possessing of property, for foiling an illegal gathering and, in some cases, for making an arrest[20]. But the RAB which is modified force of Police does not care about those regulations.

There are some important issues which play negative role to deactivate the laws against the cross firing or any unlawful activities, some of them are:

Ø      Too much insistence on law may discourage law enforcement officers from carrying out their functions.

Ø      As corruption and abuse of power are facts of life in the country.

Ø      As the insistence on law may lead to conflict, it may be necessary to restrict such agencies that insist on observing the rule of law, such as the judiciary.

Those are some similar considerations which are the basis for encouraging practices such as killing under certain circumstances specially crossfire.

RAB most of the time uses the third degree method which is the torturing, but if they fails in threats, negotiation or any other method only then they can go for torture[21]. But generally they do not follow that which is totally unlawful and against the Human Rights. Although Article 35(5) of the Constitution of Bangladesh prohibits torture and the country has ratified the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, there is no law to prohibit the method or any effective means through which to lodge a complaint, initiate an independent investigation and have a perpetrator prosecuted[22]. If the government takes effective steps through applied strict law against such unlawful act like crossfire then people can get relief from the violation of Human Rights, some of the steps government in Bangladesh should take as:

Ø      Ends the policy of extrajudicial killings through “crossfire” and investigates and prosecutes all perpetrators.

Ø      Criminalises torture in accordance with international standards and removes its reservation on article 14(1) of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment[23].

Ø      Establishes a properly independent and powerful anticorruption agency.

Ø      Designates an independent body to receive and investigate complaints against the police and other state officers.

Ø      Sets up a national human rights commission.

4. CONCLUSION:

At present Bangladesh is deeply a frustrated nation. The government’s policy of extrajudicial killings is a symptom of that frustration. It will be hard to get rid of that problem quickly; it will take time to get changed. “Crossfire” is an extrajudicial execution that is in flagrant violation of Bangladesh’s constitution and the international human rights conventions. Although some people believe that extrajudicial killing of hardened criminals helps ease the problem of “terrorism,” in reality, it encourages lawlessness and aggravates “state terrorism.” In different countries across the world, people in power have created an impression that killing “terrorists” without bringing them to justice can help curb “terrorism,” but such extrajudicial killings, in fact, can neither bring peace nor eradicate “terrorism.” Unlawful act like cross fire or torture those must be stopped immediately by enforcing effective strict law. The perspectives are very clear for all of us. If we want democracy to take strong place in Bangladesh, if due process of law and a meaningful observance of human rights are to be ensured, we must go all the way toward making sure that extra-judicial killings, either through so-called crossfire or custodial deaths, are morally and legally put to an end. A welcome provision the Awami League included in its pre-election manifesto last year was to put an end to such killings if it came to power. It is in power. And the nation expects the government it has formed to live up to that pledge.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1.      I. Kamrul. (4th October, 2009). Bangladesh government decision: extra judicial killings    continue. The New Age.

2.      G. William. (12th January, 2088). “Cross fire” crosses the limit in Bangladesh. Asian   Tribune: Studies Powered by WIAS Vol. 10 No. 221.

3.      Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization. (2005). Rapid Action Battalion wont be used for political purpose. http://www.unpo.org/article/1984

4.      Rapid Action Battalion. Official website of Rapid Action Battalion.  http://www.rab.gov.bd/

5.      I. Zahid. (21st May, 2007). Torture marks found on victim’s body, protests go on. The Daily Star. Vol. 5 Num 1055

6.      A. Khaled. (10th November, 2010). Two killed in ‘crossfire’. Bdnews24.

7.      Human Rights Monitoring Report, (1stApril, 2010). ODHIKAR.

8.      R. Sultana. (22nd April, 2006). Extrajudicial Killings in the Name of Crossfire. Asian Human Rights Commission. (Vol. 15 No. 03 April 2006)

9.       O. Sam. (2004).Stamping Out Rights: The Impact of anti-terrorism laws on policing. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.

10.  Human Rights Watch. (2006). Judge, Jury, and Executioner Torture and Extrajudicial Killings. Austin: Courtesy of University of Texas. (Volume-18, No. 16).

11.  M. D. Thomas. (2004). Caught in the crossfire: revolutions, repression, and the rational peasant. United States of America: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Inc. Page: 144

12.  S. Mahmud Ali. (2010). Understanding Bangladesh. New York: Columbia University Press.

13.  Institute of Regional Studies. (2006). Selections from regional press. Pakistan: Selections from regional press. Volume 25

14.  A. Henrik. (2009) Ignoring executions and torture: impunity for Bangladesh’s security forces. New York: Human Rights Watch.

15.  H. Hameeda. (2005). Human rights in Bangladesh.

16.  Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. (2007). Feudal Forces: Democratic Nations – Police Accountability.

17.  Human Rights Watch. (2007). Human Rights Watch World Report 2007. Page 243.

18.  K. Hiranmay. (2005). Bangladesh: the next Afghanistan. Bangladesh.

19.  G. Meenakshi & A. Henrik. (2008). how the Bangladesh military abuses its power under the state of emergency. United States of America: Human Rights Watch.

20.  Államok. Egyesült & Congress. (2007). Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2007. Page: 2159.

21.  Amnesty International. (2004). Amnesty International report.

22.  B. Ronald. (13th December, 2005). Bangladesh’s feared elite police. BBC report.

23.  The Daily Star. (30th May, 2009). Killing in ‘crossfire’ causing concern.

24.   The Daily Star. (5th October, 2009). ‘Crossfire’ killings are unacceptable.

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[1] Rapid Action Battalion or RAB is an elite anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of Bangladesh Police constituted amending the Armed Police Battalion Ordinance, 1979. Under the command of Inspector General of Police (IGP) it consists of members of Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Air Force, Border Guards Bangladesh and Bangladesh Ansar.

[2] Rapid action battalion was formed on 26 March 2004 and started its operations from 14 April 2004. Additional Inspector General of Police Anwarul Iqbal is the founding Director General of this elite unit.

[3] See, Official website of Rapid Action Battalion

[4] See, Rapid Action Battalion Sectors on the official website of Rapid Action Battalion.

[5] Odhikar, a Dhaka-based human rights monitoring organization, said that 126 people were killed by security forces during the first 210 days of emergency. Of them, 82 were allegedly killed in crossfire, while at least 23 others were allegedly tortured to death.

[6] In late 2002 the government of Bangladesh issued an executive order that launched a drive to arrest “wanted criminals” and recover “illegal arms”. The order was aimed at curtailing a rapid rise in cases of murder, extortion, kidnapping, and crimes against women by warring gangs that were allegedly linked to members of both the major political parties. Codenamed Operation Clean Heart, it comprised of army, police, village defense force, and border security personnel.

[7] The government explained–in the broadest sense of the word–that there was a “felt necessity” due to the “unstable law and order situation” in the country to establish a permanent joint anti-crime force along the lines of that used during the 86-Day Tragedy. At first, policymakers dreamed of a Rapid Action Team, a “RAT”, but somebody woke up in time and it was renamed RAB.

[8] The government will need to continue with extrajudicial killing, commonly called ‘crossfire,’ until terrorist activities and extortion is uprooted, said a senior minister in Sheikh Hasina’s cabinet.

[9] By the RAB’s own admission, 283 persons have “died during exchange of fire “in crossfire” & “in the line of fire” from since it was established up to mid-2006.

[10] According to Daily Star, “Rab sources said 458 people were killed in ‘crossfire’ between December 31, 2004, and December 31, 2007, while over a hundred others were killed in 2008 and another 24 in the last four months”.

[11] The RAB was legalized through the Armed Police Battalions (Amendment) Act 2003, which has its origins in the Armed Police Battalions Ordinance 1979. The amended law gives the RAB wide responsibilities, including “intelligence in respect of crime and criminal activities” and “investigation of any offence on the direction of the Government”.

[12] Section 6B (1): “The Government may, at any time, direct the Rapid Action Battalion to investigate any offence”. Any offence, any time: this is what justifies the description of the RAB as hired guns.

[13] The government of Bangladesh has told the UN Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial executions that under the 2003 act the RAB is “guided strictly by the Code of Criminal Procedure” (E/CN.4/2004/7/Add.1, para. 26).

[14] In section 103 of the code, police who search a certain premises must first obtain two or more “respectable inhabitants” of the locality to witness the search and countersign any record of seized items. When RAB personnel take persons in their custody to search and retrieve weapons or other illegal objects from premises at 3am they completely ignore this obligation. It is under these circumstances that RAB personnel conveniently get into “crossfire” and the person in their custody dies. Perhaps the RAB members are not complying with the code out of concern for the safety of the respectable inhabitants.

[15] According to X-Chief Justice of Supreme Court Mohammad Habibor, “We have belatedly decided to get a report on every death in crossfire. We ought to have asked for a report when the first incidents of death occurred.

[16] Article 2 of the international Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Vol. 5, No. 4 “The boundaries of freedom in Bangladesh are clearly demarcated by the use of crossfire, torture and other potent threats“

[17]“ The prevention of torture, extrajudicial killing and other grave abuses of human rights in Bangladesh is a gigantic task which will take huge efforts for years to come”

[18] Article 31 of the constitution of Bangladesh states: “To enjoy the protection of law, and to be treated in accordance with law, is the inalienable right of every citizen, wherever he may be, and of every other person for the time being within Bangladesh, and in particular no action detrimental to the life, liberty, body, reputation or property of any person shall be taken except in accordance with law.”

[19] The constitution’s Article 32 ensures the protection of the right to life and personal liberty in accordance with the law.

[20] Police regulations of Bengal (PRB) states that,” The uses of firearms are applicable in three situations: for self-protection and possessing of property, for foiling an illegal gathering and, in some cases, for making an arrest”

[21] “If threats and negotiations with an accused do not yield anything lucrative, police will turn to what is euphemistically known as the Third Degree Method”

[22] “No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment.”

[23] Each State Party shall ensure in its legal system that the victim of an act of torture obtains redress and has an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible. In the event of the death of the victim as a result of an act of torture, his dependents shall be entitled to compensation.

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