Tuesday, October 13, 2009

European Union:

EU human rights team meets RAB

 By Bangladesh Media; A visiting European Union human rights delegation met the director general of Rapid Action Battalion on Monday and praised the agency's activities, RAB said in a statement.

The three-member team comprising human rights envoys Arjan Hamburger from Norway, Günter Nooke from Germany and Arnold de Fine Skibsted from Denmark visited the RAB headquarters at Uttara in the afternoon. The delegation arrived in Dhaka on a five day visit on Sunday. RAB chief Hassan Mahmud Khandaker informed them about the activities of his elite law enforcement agency.

Dutch ambassador Alphons Hennekens, representatives of the German and Danish embassies, additional director general of RAB Col Mizanur Rahman Khan and other officials were also present. RAB, in its statement, said the EU delegation praised the role of the agency in fighting terrorism in the country and wished to support it in its activities, especially those related to human rights. Concerns have risen again in Bangladesh recently at the high incidence of deaths of suspects—mostly identified as known militants, extremists and terrorists—in encounters with law enforcers, RAB among them.

At least 97 people were reported to have died in "shootout/encounter/crossfire" incidents with law-enforcing agencies between Jan 1 and Sept 30 this year, said independent human-rights watchdog Odhikar earlier this month. The shooting incidents are commonly reported as "crossfire" in the media, a term which has come to imply "suspicious" or extra-judicial killings.

International and local rights groups, including Amnesty International, US-based Human Rights Watch, Transparency International, Bangladesh and Odhikar, over past years have frequently expressed concern over the rate of extra-judicial killings in the country.

Home minister Sahara Khatun and her deputy Shamsul Huq Tuku, however, have claimed that no extra-judicial killings were taking place under the present government. They said that law enforcers only resort to firing in self defence when they come under attack.

However, controversy was sparked when two polytechnic students were killed in RAB 'crossfire' in the capital in early June. The High Court on June 29 ordered the government to explain why killings without trial in so-called crossfire or encounters should not be declared illegal.

It also asked why departmental and criminal actions should not be taken against those who perpetrate such killings in or out of custody. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina herself announced in February this year that the extrajudicial killings perpetrated during the tenure of the military-installed interim government would be investigated.

US-based Human Rights Watch, in a damning report in May this year, suggested 'elite' security forces such as Rapid Action Battalion and the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) be disbanded altogether.

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