Extra-judicial killings go on unabated

PM claims steps taken

The Daily Star June 21, 2012

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday said her government had taken legal steps on enquiry into every incident of extrajudicial killing, a claim which was rejected outright by two top rights activists.

Citing over 400 incidents of extrajudicial killings during the present government’s tenure since 2009, Prof CR Abrar, chief of Odhikar, a leading rights body, said: “No single action was taken against the perpetrators.”

Advocate Sultana Kamal, chief of another leading rights body, Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), supported Prof Abrar’s statement.

In parliament, the prime minister however claimed: “Members of law-enforcement agencies are to exercise force and even on some occasions they are to open fire to arrest or resist organised criminals.

“Investigation is carried out if any such incident takes place and legal action is taken if any member uses excess force.”

The premier came up with the claim in response to a query of BNP lawmaker AM Mahbubuddin Khokon who enquired if the government would take any step to stop extrajudicial killings and forced disappearance.

The opposition MP in a scripted question also sought to know the government’s measures, if taken, to this effect.

Hasina accepted the opposition MP’s question to reply in the House although the BNP-led opposition has been boycotting parliament.

In her scripted answer to the question, Hasina also said her government was working constantly to establish the rule of law in the country. The law-enforcement agencies are always active to curb crimes, she added.

On the incidents of forced disappearance, the premier only said in case of disappearance of any person, investigation is carried out following filing of a general diary or case with police about the incident.

Contacted, rights activist Sultana Kamal and CR Abrar however did not agree with the premier’s claim about her government’s actions taken against members of law-enforcement agencies in connection with extrajudicial killings.

“We have many times asked the law-enforcement agencies about their action against incidents of extrajudicial killings. Although they have been claiming of taking actions against their colleagues for their alleged involvement in the crimes, they have never provided us with any information,” Sultana Kamal said.

Sultana Kamal, also a former adviser to the caretaker government, said the AL had promised before the last parliamentary election to stop extrajudicial killings. “But we do not see any steps taken to execute that promise.”

According to an account of Odhikar, as many as 408 people have been victims of extrajudicial killings during the present government since January 6, 2009 to May 2012.

Members of Rapid Action Battalion (Rab), police, Ansar, army, Border Guard Bangladesh, Coast Guard, forest guard and jail authorities are accused of committing extrajudicial killings, according to Odhikar.

On the incidents of forced disappearance, ASK in a report released in April 2012 said 104 people have fallen victim of forced disappeared since 2009.

According to ASK, the trend of forced disappearance is increasing. In 2009, only two people went missing, but the figure rose to 30 in 2010 and 51 in 2011, while 22 people went missing as of April in 2012.

Of the missing people, no-one has ever been found — dead or alive, the organisation added.