Does extra judicial killings diminish public faith on judicial system of Bangladesh? Do you agree with this statement? Explain & illustrate.
Introduction: An extrajudicial killing is the killing of a person by governmental authorities without the sanction of any judicial proceeding or legal process. Extrajudicial punishments are by their nature unlawful, since they bypass the due process of the legal jurisdiction in which they occur. Extrajudicial killings often target leading political, trade union, dissident, religious, and social figures and may be carried out by the state government or other state authorities like the armed forces and police.
Civilization is thought to have come to a stage when we are supposedly living in a rights-based rational society. In order to consolidate our perceived and real gains in this respect, 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.
Constraints put up by policies (of a state or informal institutions) on the way of accessing these rights would mean constraints in the process of development of human potentials of that particular nation or race. As a resource poor developing country, Bangladesh unfortunately faces a lot of such constraints.
How extra judicial Killing started in Bangladesh:
One of the major concerns of the country today seems to be violation of the fundamental rights of its citizens. The particular concern of this note relates to violation of the ‘Protection of right to life and personal liberty’ (Article 32, Bangladesh Constitution).
Over the last few years including the period before and after the Emergency rule (January 2007-December 2008), incidence of extra judicial killings by law enforcing agencies, custodial death and torture have evidently been on the rise.
Lack of credible investigation into these allegations and non-prosecution of those responsible expose the futility of the right to life of Bangladeshi citizens. Therefore, there is a great danger that the future citizens of Bangladesh would fall out from the onward march of the world community to progress and development.
Under the circumstances, the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh has come forward to attempt to uphold the constitutional rights. A Division Bench comprising Justice AFM Abdur Rahman and Justice Md. Emdadul Haque Azad passed the Suo Moto (Suo moto: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.) rule after reading newspaper articles regarding the deaths of two siblings – Lutfor Khalashi and Khairul Khalashi – who were killed while in custody of the RAB-8 in Madaripur district.
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 is the first ever suo moto rule from any court in Bangladesh regarding alleged extra-judicial killings. However, it was just learned that the aforesaid Bench was dissolved by the Chief Justice immediately before the date for hearing (9 January 2010) of the government response – apparently for some administrative reasons.
After independence of the country in 1972, the practice of extrajudicial killing by the law-enforcing agencies began.
The paramilitary force Jatiya Rakkhi Bahini came into being and soon became infamous for its extrajudicial executions until the Bahini was dissolved and its troops were absorbed into the army in 1975.
In 2004, with the formation of the “elite” Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) , the BNP-Jamaat alliance government appeared to adopt the same policy of extrajudicial killings notwithstanding the Constitution clearly stating that laws incompatible to and conflicting with the fundamental rights shall be void. It further says that if such laws and practices ever occur, will be regarded as discriminatory and in clear contravention of guaranteed fundamental rights. From March 26, 2004 until Oct. 21, 2009, around 1,600 people have been reportedly killed without justice.
Such killings are often described as incidents of “crossfire,” or “encounters” between the victims and the law enforcing agencies. It is however, a common belief and knowledge of the citizens and the families of the victims that “crossfire” is a blatant attempt of covering up the unlawful actions conducted by the men in the Uniform.
More disappointing is the unashamed denial of the governments and their agencies committing these crimes. Because, that is how any hope of getting justice by the families of the victims is ruthlessly suppressed. The governments are blamed of their failures in controlling the agencies which bring them shame to their names and in the process denying justice to the families of the victims.
A long discourse on moral obligation of a democratically elected government of a People’s Republic which is entrusted to protect safety and the general interest of the citizens is unnecessary here as it is a well understood issue.
Let us instead see what are the legal obligations, and how the governments so easily succeed in earning bad reputation for them and what violations are they indicted of by the people?
The government of Bangladesh has been consistently blamed for violating the constitution and Universal Declaration of Human Rights – particularly since 2004 when the incidents of extra-judicial killings seemed to suddenly escalate.
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.”
According to the Art. 3 of the constitution of Bangladesh,
“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”
Again, it is quite implicit in Articles 31 and 32 that right to access justice is a fundamental right of a citizen. Even a fugitive is entitled to a legal defense when she/he carries a death penalty.
When extra judicial killing will Stop?
Judiciary, the rule of law, regulations, the constitution and the national assembly – all seem to suffer from some degree of dysfunctional state. We gloat over the perceived freedom of the media in the country. But if we look at the media’s role regarding extrajudicial killings, we do not find there much to be happy about.
Reporting of these incidents are conveniently couched under the rhetoric of “crossfire”, “gunfights” or “encounters”. Not probing deeper enough these reports often do not tell what the families of the victims have to say. Sometimes, the media seems to simply copy the reports of such deaths produced by the police and its agencies. We see in the news that the powerful perpetrators not only violate their rights and dignity at will, but also deny them their right to freedom of expression. They render the victims and their family so helpless and intimidated that they are unable to speak out, leave alone lodging a complaint. If someone shows courage and honesty in reporting, she or he pays a high price for that.
According to one such experience about the Emergency period of 2007-2009:
“I want to say I have been giving high price for press freedom and human rights with my whole family. Only for my professional activity my father in law lost his long political carrier with the ruling Bangladesh Awmai League.
After my persecution I have been paralyzed socially, economically, mentally and physically. Not only that, I have lost my job, dignity, reputation. I don’t know how am I going to recover my dignity, reputation and all other loses ?
Prior to the general election of 29 December 2008 the Bangladesh Awami League, which assumed office on 6 January 2009 after winning a landslide victory with a three fourth’s majority in the parliament, pledged to the people that it will “stop extrajudicial killing, bring the perpetrators to justice, and establish rule of law and human rights” .
A Supreme Court judge, Nazrul Islam Chowdhury, recently said:
“It will be suicidal for the nation and the society to allow the law enforcement agencies to decide who should be killed on criminal charges. Extra-judicial killing must be stopped. Bring anyone to justice if accused of criminal charges, but no further killing in crossfire, please”!
Each case of encounter killing causes a fresh dent to democracy and the rule of law. The existing legal framework, as enshrined in the Constitution, does not allow encounter killing. Such a concept cannot co-exist with constitutionalism, rule of law and the principles of democracy.
Decades after the independence of the country, it is unfortunate that many people in Bangladesh today still experience violations of their human rights that includes custodial torture, extra-judicial killing and various other abuses of authority and power. On the one hand, the government has guaranteed (the UN) a ‘Zero tolerance’ to extra-judicial killings, but on the other hand, it grants blatant impunity to the personnel of security forces who violates these rights.
Every case of murder at the hands of the law enforcement agencies is an act of crime committed by the state and it is a negation of the principles of natural justice. Encounter killing or whatever euphemistic term we attribute to these murders, is a denial of justice to a suspect. It is a violation of the fundamental right and denial of the fundamental right to life.
The danger of denial of these rights is that we will be reduced to a perpetually “underdeveloped” nation with human potentials of a large population group remaining untapped and degenerated. We therefore recommend a systemic overhaul of the criminal justice mechanism in Bangladesh in order to ensure establishment of the rule of law and promotion of human rights.
“Bangladesh has a long way to go to live up to its commitments, in both national policies and meeting international obligations,” Robertson said. “It is only when its people can live free of fear of torture, repression, curbs on free speech, or politically motivated actions that it can truly lay its claim to being a democratic country.”
Do you agree with this statement?
Yes, I agree with this statement because extra judicial killing can never be a effective way of justice. It is a true statement that extra judicial killing diminish public faith on judicial system of Bangladesh.
In the past year, Bangladesh’s law enforcement agencies have killed 378 people. Of these, 245 of the victims died as a result of police actions, 116 in Rapid Action Battalion, 12 were killed by Cobra and Cheetah (special crime-busting units of police) and five by joint forces.
Initially, when it was learnt that several of those killed were top criminals, some members of the public voiced their relief that such people were no longer a threat. However, when a number of people with no criminal record fell victim to the police shootings, panic started to pervade cross sections of the society.
Perhaps in an attempt to combat any criticism laid against them, the law enforcers attempted to portray the innocent victims as persons with criminal records. However, investigations have nullified these claims by the law enforcers who have clearly fabricated charges against innocent people they have killed.
Law enforcers have targeted some of their victims in work places and at their homes, and have then later gunned them down in public, describing the deaths as a result of crossfire.
Such violent tactics by Bangladesh’s law enforcers comes in the wake of the government establishing Special Forces to contain a growing crime rate. Whilst justifying the existence and heavy handedness of these forces, the government has also come under criticism by human rights bodies who describe the forces as temporary solutions in a situation that requires a long term approach.
According to rights watchdog Odhikar, 249 journalists were killed, attacked, arrested, intimidated or subjected to other forms for rights violation between January 1 and November 30. Three journalists were killed, 109 injured, 40 assaulted, 17 attacked, 2 arrested, 1 abducted, 48 threatened and 13 were sued and 16 became victims of other forms of rights violation mainly by the ruling class and other powerful quarters for publishing reports in 11 months.
Amar Desh special correspondent Oliullah Noman had to serve a month in jail and his acting editor Mahmudur Rahman is still in jail on charges of contempt of court for publishing a report. In 2009, three journalists were killed, 84 injured, 45 assaulted, 16 attacked, one arrested, two abducted, 73 threatened, 23 sued and 19 became victims of other forms of rights violations.
Extrajudicial killing in the name of ‘crossfire’ or ‘encounter’ and torture in custody are going apace marking the severest form of violation of rights by the state machinery, law enforcers in particular. According to Odhikar, 116 persons became victims of extrajudicial killing in nine months till November 30. One hundred and forty-five people were killed by law enforcers in the incidents of reported ‘crossfire’ in the same period in 2009.
By Bangladesh Media, Sources report that three people have been killed in one hour. Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) demanded three Crossfire incidents! Places are Dhaka, Meherpur and Barisal in Bangladesh. Time of these incidents are between 4.00 to 5.00 early morning on Friday! By these incidents, 5 people killed in last 7 days.
The deceased are raw material and chemical trader Nazimuddin, Babu, 30, of Chittagong, was killed at Malibagh in Dhaka, the ultra-left PBCP leader Durjoy Babu, 36, of Jorpukuria, was killed in Meherpur and Al Ameen Sannyamat, 31, said to be involved in robbery was killed at Bakerganj in Barisal.
Finally, the government must bring a stop to its Operation Clean Heart and strictly discipline Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) if it wishes these forms of human rights abuses to cease. Only by taking such action will the government show its true resolve to improve the human rights situation in Bangladesh. Government should be more aware about extra judicial killing. It should has some responsibility and liability of the administration. Government should take proper steps against these types of inhuman and illegal killing. Otherwise it will be a major problem in the country.