Admiralty Chambers In Bangladesh


A strong national defence and good law of a country makes people living in it to feel secured. Law just not only punishes the guilty but also lets people have faith in the ones making the law and interpreting it – the judicial system. However, there are loopholes in this system which eventually causes public faith on it to be diminished. One as such is the much talked about, extrajuducial killings in Bangladesh. We know people are inherited with the right to life, right to freedom of movement and speech and freedom from torture and inhuman treatment to lead a peaceful life in our country. However,the law enforcing agencies  have put limitations on the way of accessing these rights by violation of the fundamental rights of its citizens.

Extrajudicial killing is the killing of a person by government authorities without the authorization of any judicial proceeding or legal process. The term “extrajudicial killing” means execution without justice. This is a severe human rights violation. Though there is no legal definition of an extrajudicial killing, if a death is caused by a law enforcement official without following the legal rules or due judicial process, it can be considered extrajudicial. Extrajudicial killings often target leading political, trade union, protester, religious, and social figures and may be carried out by the state government or other state authorities like the armed forces and police. It has recently been in the news a lot of times and I completely support that extrajudicial killings diminish public faith on judicial system of Bangladesh. It is completely unjust of law keepers to take life of innocent people without giving them a chance to have a fair trial. The ones who are mainly involved in it are the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB)officials of Bangladesh.


Rapid Action Battalion (RAB)officials of Bangladesh are an anti-crime and anti-terrorism elite force. They are equipped with modern weapons, law enforcement equipment, patrol vehicles, helicopters and armored personnel carriers to perform all types of internal security duties with efficiency. The duties assigned for RAB are: assuring securities inside the country, recovering unauthorized arms, ammunitions and explosives, arresting armed criminal gangs, assisting other law enforcing agencies for maintaining law and order, gathering  intelligence on criminals and crime syndicates and iinvestigating any offence as per the direction of the government. RAB have been trained by the British government which the human rights organisations think of as a “government death squad” prepared by the UK government[1]. The RAB’s use of torture has also been exhaustively documented by human rights organizations. RAB has come into action six years ago and it is estimated by some human rights activists responsible for more than 1,000 extra-judicial killings[2], described with the term “crossfire” deaths. According to 28th February, 2010 two more men were killed and with this extra judicial killings rose to 155 people in Bangladesh under the present Awami League government.These killings are prohobited by the Bangladesh Constitution and National Laws but even then these are commonly being practiced.


Despite Prime Minister’s assurance to stop extrajudicial killing two men were killed by RAB in Bangladesh[3]. The term ‘crossfire’ used by the RAB officials is a mere excuse for such killing. It is the cover of their malicious and intentional killing. Thus this causes people of reasonable firmness to fear for their personal safety.

For example, the case of Dr. Mizanur Rahman Tutul ,who was arrested by the police as he was suspected to have masterminded the killings of political figures in several regions and became an outlaw. When he was arrested, his  mother requested to the government to guarantee his right to a fair trial. Despite her mother’s appeal, Mr Tutul was killed in a so-called “shootout” incident only few hours later. Though a trial would mean a higher percentage chance to bribe law enforcers and get out of jail, but still for the victim’s family it is totally unfair to kill their loved ones in name of crossfire. Even then every citizen has the right to go through a judicial proceeding before s/he is liable for that offence. Thus, killing the person straight way is illegal and immoral. It is not fair either to that person or the family. The family members are not given a good excuse for their big loss. And this is when their faith in judicial system reduces. They do not trust the law to give them a secure and fair life in the country.

Another situation may arise in a situation where the victim may have commited some crime accidently in the past for which the RAB was after them or when the officers of RAB may take personal grudge against their rivals or enemies then they will have all the power over ones’ life. Suppose the victim is innocent but as there is no law binding the action of RABs and if there is law RABs are not following it, it will unnecessarily take the life of helpless people. Thinking of these kind of issuses, public faith on judicial system is automatically diminishing. RAB is gradually turning into a fiend, ignoreing human rights and continuing various forms of extra judicial activities. There are hundreds of accusations against RAB officials for being involved in extortion, abduction, rape and even dealing in drugs and weapons. Some of the members of RAB use organized black mailing rackets to trap innocent people and finally extract money from the victims with various excuses.


The government tries to rationalize the killings by using the term “crossfire,” which it refers to as gunfights between any alleged criminal group or “toughened” criminals and the RAB or police. The government of Bangladesh, as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, should upheld the highest standards in the field of human rights. Internationational Federal for Human Rights and its member organisation in Bangladesh Odhikar strongly condemn the killing in the so called ‘shoot-out’ by the police officers and they must soon take the initiative to put an end to such killings in the country.

A few human rights organizations have asked the government several times to stop the killings, terming them “extrajudicial”[4]. But still the Bangladesh’s elite Rapid Action Battalion continues to engage in extrajudicial killings despite Supreme Court directives to stop it. Although the court is handling the issue of extrajudicial killings, RAB does not seem to be bothered either about the judiciary or the country’s laws.

However. the voice of public has been heard by the Human rights organisations who has lately accused law enforcing agents of killing at least 200 people in custody since January 2009 and hence for the first time eleven officers have been jailed for suspected extrajudicial killing in Bangladesh. The policemen surrendered after they had been presented in front of the court for the killing which took place in July, 2008. A common scene is always seen where a body of the suspect would be found in some place shot with bullets but when interrogated the police would come up with different stories than the real one. Recently there has been one like this near Natore and the police said he had been killed in crossfire during a raid on a gangster hideout  but his family confirmed that he was killed in custody. Another similar story where a suspect was found dead in police custody was said to die of a hear attack by the policemen while his family had something else to say. These mere lies by the law enforcers are easily covered under a clean blanket but one should stand up for it. There should be laws that protect people from such situations rather than being killed maliciously.

The current government of Bangladesh has pulled up its socks to fight against extrajudicial killings and shown initiatives by discussing it with Lord Abury, chairman of the Standing Committee on Human Rights of the House of Lords, Abbas Faiz, director of Asia Chapter of Amnesty International, and Bard Adams, director HR Caucas, New York and the the prime minister in London on Jan 30. However have they been able to come up with new laws or ways to stop such killing? The answer would not be satisfying. These brutal killings have been continued and if the statistics are seen these number go up above hundreds in a year. I believe that extrajudicial killing cannot be stopped overnight but one should strongly stand up for it soon before it becomes a massacre situation in the country.

Laws Being Ignored

In Bangladesh, the law says least amount of force should be applied to arrests and every person has the right to seek a trial. However in cases like ‘crossfire’ and ‘encounters’ these legal provisions are completely being neglected. 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.”


The main problem in a country as Bangladesh is that the laws are not implemented with the seriousness required.  Article 35 (5) of the Constitution of Bangladesh reads:

“No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or treatment.” If people were forced to abide by this law then there would have been reduced problem. This provision which deals with the prohibition of torture has not been applied, mainly due to the lack of a law criminalizing torture. The protection of human rights is not given much respect in the country, especially those of victims who suffer ill-treatment and torture by the law-enforcement agencies. Legal action should be taken against these alleged perpetrators followed by a thorough investigation. And after doing so adequate damages should be paid to the victims or their families. It is the responsibility of the government of the day to ensure that government security and law enforcement forces do not abuse human rights. When such abuses occur, it is the government’s responsibility to take swift action against perpetrators.

I may suggest few things that the government can do to handle this exrajudicial killings to gain public faith in judical system of bangladesh. It can require, including through legislation, an official and independent inquest into every death at the hands of government forces which is a common approach in democratic countries. Such inquests would allow the truth to emerge in cases in which RAB or other law enforcement officers kill an individual. They would provide a forum for RAB to present evidence of self-defence, which RAB regularly claims as the reason for killings. At the same time, they would allow victims, their families and others to present evidence of illegal killings, torture or unlawful detentions. Proper inquests would also allow the public to know the truth of what happened.


1.      Salah. U. S. C.,(2008). Dying while in custody: Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion Licensed to kill. Dhaka

  1. Bangladesh Media.,(2011). Despite Prime Ministers assurance two more killed in “Crossfire”! International Press Release.

  1. Jahangir A. A.,(2010). Extra judicial killings by Bangladesh.Dhaka: Political Blog.

  1. International Federation for Human Rights, Bangladesh must put an end to extra-judicial killings, 30 July 2008, available at: [accessed 22 February 2011]

  1. Amnesty International, BANGLADESH URGED TO LIFT BAN ON EXTRAJUDICIAL EXECUTIONS EXHIBITION, 23 March 2010, available at:

  1. Sultana R.,(2004).Extrajudicial Killings in the Name of Crossfire.Dhaka: Human Rights Solidarity.

  1. Alaiwah.Bangladesh:When will extrajudicial killings stop?,18 January 2010, available at:

  1. Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC).BANGLADESH: The perpetrators of over 1000 extra-judicial killings must be brought to justice,13 February 2008, available at:

  1. Fariha.K, & Ian.C.,(2010).Bangladeshi ‘death squad’ trained by UK government.Rapid Action Battalion, accused of hundreds of extra-judicial killings, received training from UK officers, cables reveal. US: Wiki Leaks cables

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[1] some news reveal that  both the British and the Americans, in their determination to strengthen counter-terrorism operations in Bangladesh, are in favour of bolstering the force, arguing that the “RAB enjoys a great deal of respect and admiration from a population scarred by decreasing law and order over the last decade”. In one cable, the US ambassador to Dhaka, James Moriarty, expresses the view that the RAB is the “enforcement organisation best positioned to one day become a Bangladeshi version of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation”.

[2] About 133 incidents of extrajudicial killing were recorded across the country in the last year, a human rights organization said in its annual report, demanding that such incidents must come to an end. Ain- O-Salish Kendra in its report said 74 people died in custody of the law enforcers in 2010, while 505 incidents of political violence left 76 people killed. At least 35 were killed after receiving physical torture leaving at least 71 injured and 34 were kidnapped

[3] The Awami League in its election manifesto pledged that ‘extrajudicial killings will be stopped.’ Forty-seven people have been killed in such incidents since the High Court on December 14, 2009 asked the authorities not to kill any more people in ‘crossfire’ or ‘encounter’ until it hears a rule it issued suo moto on the government in connection with extrajudicial killings.

[4] Moreover, the High Court of Bangladesh, on June 29, 2009, asked the government to explain why killing people without a trial, in the form of extrajudicial killings, is not being declared as illegal, and why measures are not being taken against the perpetrators.


For: The Lawyers & Jurists

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