Monday, December 7, 2009

Demand from National Commission

NHRC recommends independent prob

By Bangladesh Media; The National Human Rights Commission on Sunday recommended that the government should carry out independent inquiries into each of the incidents of extrajudicial killings in 'crossfire.'

'Independent inquiry should be conducted into each of the incidents of extrajudicial killing as there are conflicting statements from law enforcers and families of the victims on most such incidents,' the commission chairman, Justice Amirul Kabir Chowdhury, told the media after submitting the annual commission report to the president.

'Each of the incidents should be investigated by an independent inquiry committee of minimum three members comprising a government official not below the rank of deputy secretary, a police officer not below the rank of superintendent of police and a civil society personality of the choice of the family of the victim,' Justice Amirul Kabir told New Age Sunday night.

The commission came up with the demand while law enforcers continued killing people in incidents of 'crossfire' or 'encounter' taking the total figure of extrajudicial killing, as of November 17, to 1,462 after June 24, 2004 when the first case of such 'crossfire killing' by the Rapid Action Battalion took place. The police and other law enforcement agencies then started killing people in extrajudicial incidents.

All the successive governments kept arguing that such extrajudicial killing was inevitable to improve law and order. With such comments by successive governments, the law enforcers have continued feeding the media with a similar story saying when they raid a place to arrest 'terrorists' or go to seize illegal arms along with detained 'terrorist,' the associates of the terrorists attack them, leading to gunfights and after the gunfight, they find the 'terrorist' killed after being caught in the firing.

In most of the cases, the families of the victims claimed the stories fed by the law enforcers were concocted and the victims were directly shot dead by the law enforcers. Mentioning such contradictory statements about extrajudicial killings, Justice Amirul Kabir said, 'Only an independent inquiry can reveal the fact about the incidents.'

He also demanded that all the reports of such independent inquiries should be made public.
The national statutory body on human rights came up with the demand 19 days after the High Court on November 17 issued a rule suo moto on the government to explain why the killing of two brothers in Rapid Action Battalion custody in 'crossfire' early November 16 in Madaripur would not be declared illegal.

The High Court bench of Justice AFM Abdur Rahman and Justice Md Emdadul Haque Azad issued the rule after newspapers had reported that two brothers, Lutfor Khalasi and Khairul Khalasi, said to be regional leaders of the ultra-left Sharbahara Party, were killed in 'crossfire.' The rule was issued on the home secretary, Rapid Action Battalion director general, RAB 8 commanding officer and RAB 8 officer Major Ohiduzzaman who arrested the two at Jatrapur of Rupganj in Narayanganj early November 14.

The death of the two was reported just 36 hours after the family had expressed fears that the two might be killed in custody. Such extrajudicial killing goes unabated while the government is yet to reply to the rules issued by the High Court, including two in 2006 and another in June 2009 regarding extrajudicial killing by law enforcers in the name of 'crossfire' or 'encounter.'

The High Court first came up with a ruling on extrajudicial killing on May 25, 2006. In the ruling, the High Court bench of Justice M Awlad Ali and Justice Zinat Ara asked the government to explain why the killing of Tunda Ismail, who was in fetters in police custody, should not be properly investigated and why the offenders should not be brought to justice. Tunda Ismail, arrested in an arms case and remanded in police custody for interrogation, was killed in 'crossfire,' as claimed by the police, at Lalbagh in Dhaka on May 22, 2006.

The court passed the order in response to a writ petition filed by Supreme Court lawyer Mizanur Rahman seeking enforcement and protection of fundamental rights. The High Court bench of Justice Syed Muhammad Dastagir Husain and Justice Mamnoon Rahman on August 6, 2006 issued a rule asking the government and the Rapid Action Battalion to explain why they should not be directed to ensure the security of the people detained in their custody.

The court issued the order after hearing a writ petition filed by rights organisation Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh, which sought the court's directive on the government and the battalion in protecting the life of anyone in detention from being killed in 'crossfire' or 'encounter.'

In a recent development, the High Court bench of Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain and Justice Quamrul Islam Siddiqui on June 29 issued a rule asking the government to explain why extrajudicial killing by law enforcers in the name of 'crossfire' or 'encounter' would not be declared illegal.

The court also asked the government, home secretary, inspector general of police and RAB director general to explain why they would not be directed to take departmental and legal action against the perpetrators of such extrajudicial killings.

The court issued the rule after hearing a public interest litigation writ petition filed by three rights organisations - Ain o Salish Kendra, Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust and Karmajibi Nari - challenging the legality of extrajudicial killing. A number of cases have also been filed against RAB personnel on various charges, including killing people in the name of 'crossfire.'

In an incident, 10 battalion members were sued on June 16 on charges of killing two Dhaka Polytechnic Institute students on May 27 on Manik Mia Avenue. From the time when extrajudicial killing started taking place, national and international quarters, including rights groups, have continued with criticising such killing and demanding an end to suck killing.

Against such backdrop, the Awami League-led government assumed office on January 6 after a landslide victory in the December 2008 general elections on the wings of a number of pre-election pledges, which include putting an end to extrajudicial killing.

Extrajudicial killing, however, still continued unabated with the government gradually shifting its position - from condemnation to justification - regarding such killing. The government's shift from condemnation to justification of extrajudicial killings marked a full circle when the prime minister told a news briefing in New York on September 27 that she was not for extrajudicial killing but if a criminal would open fire, law enforcers could not sit idle.
Exposing the government's unwillingness to end extrajudicial killing, the shipping minister, Shahjahan Khan, on October 3 said the government would need to continue with extrajudicial killing until terrorist activities and extortion were uprooted.

In the latest development on the government's stand on the issue, the home minister, Sahara Khatun, on November 17 claimed that no incident of 'crossfire' had taken place in the country since the assumption of office of the Awami League government.

'We are not carrying out any crossfire right now. No such incident has taken place since our government assumed office,' she told reporters after a special law and order meeting at the home ministry.

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