Saturday, October 3, 2009

Odhikar Says:

97 killed in custody in 9 months

By Bangladesh Media; A human rights watchdog has reported ‘at least 97 deaths’ in the custody of the law enforcing agencies, particularly the Rapid Action Battalion, in nine months since the Awami League government assumed office.The report prepared by Odhikar also recommended putting an end to extrajudicial killings in line with the ruling party’s election pledges.

The report, released on Thursday, also said journalists had been attacked and ‘false’ cases filed against them despite the ruling party’s pledge that media freedom would be safeguarded to establish transparency, accountability and good governance.

As per the AL’s election manifesto and the Universal Periodic Review declaration of the United Nations, extrajudicial killings must be stopped and those involved in such killings must be put on trial, the Odhikar report said. It said that during the period between January 1 and September 30, 2009, at least 97 persons were killed by the law enforcement agencies.

‘Among them 28 have reportedly been killed by the RAB , 41 by police, 21 jointly by RAB and police, 3 by the army, 2 by ansars, 1 by the jail police and 1 by forest guards. Out of the 97 people killed, 20 died in custody of various law enforcement agencies,’ said the rights group. Referring to torture of BDR soldiers in custody, it recommended that torture in custody and remand and should stop. ‘Independent and fair investigations must be carried out in relation to the death of BDR members in custody.’

In its report, Odhikar strongly condemned the police attacks on a procession of the national committee to protect oil, gas, mineral resources power and ports and the people protesting against India’s planned Tipaimukh Dam. Putting emphasis on the freedom of expression, it said the government must refrain from narrowing down the path to the exercise of democratic rights and taking harsh measures against political opponents.

On the issue of border killings by the Indian border guards, the rights defenders called on the government to take effective steps so that the killings of Bangladeshi citizens by the BSF were stopped. According to Odhikar statistics, at least 82 Bangladesh nationals were killed by the BSF in past nine months. Besides, 59 Bangladeshis were injured, 92 went missing on borders, 18 were abducted and 11 Bengali-speaking Indian citizens pushed into Bangladesh.

The group criticised the government for abruptly cancelling an orientation programme of Odhikar designed to enhance the capacity of human rights defenders. It said, ‘The decision of the government indicates it intends to suppress the voice of Odhikar against extrajudicial killings and torture in custody. It also indicates that the government is not willing to end torture and extrajudicial killings.’

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