Tuesday, December 15, 2009

High Court is very concerned

Counts 11 extrajudicial killings since suo moto rule; warns govt against any such action till Jan 9 hearing

By Bangladesh Media; The High Court yesterday expressed grave concern over persistence of extrajudicial killings as 11 people were killed in custody since issuance of a suo moto rule upon the government on November 17 for an explanation on the matter.

During hearing on the rule yesterday afternoon, the court asked the attorney general to convey its concern to the director general of Rapid Action Battalion (Rab). The HC also asked him to take initiatives so that no such killings take place till the next hearing on the matter scheduled for January 9.

The HC also asked the state's top law officer to place the names of Rab officials of Madaripur involved in detaining two brothers -- Lutfor Rahman Khalasi and Khairul Haque Khalasi -- who were killed on November 16.

Attorney General Mahbubey Alam assured the court he would personally ask the Rab DG to take measures so that any such killings don't take place in custody of the elite force. Meanwhile, rights organisations Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) and Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) yesterday submitted separate statements to the court saying over 1,000 people have been killed in custody in "so-called" crossfire, encounter or gunfight in violation of human rights since formation of Rab in 2004. However, the HC came up with the suo moto rule against extrajudicial killings after five years of its beginning in 2004.

The ASK statement said the organisation found 1,057 people fell victim to extrajudicial killings since formation of Rab. The BLAST, on the other hand, placed records of Odhikar, another rights organisation, saying the number of victims systematically rose from 64 in 2004 to 111 in 2005 and 192 in 2006. However, the number of such victims fell to 94 in 2007, 68 in 2008 and 39 till November 2009.

These two organisations earlier became party in the suo moto rule. As the hearing started, the HC observed that it is very unfortunate 11 people were killed in the so-called crossfire, encounter or gunfight after the court issued a suo moto rule.

The HC bench of Justice AFM Abdur Rahman and Justice Md Emdadul Haque Azad said the extrajudicial killings should stop for establishing rule of law in the country. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina herself has categorically said in parliament that her government will not allow any kind of extrajudicial killings. But still now some "black sheep" in the elite force are committing such incidents, the bench commented.

Not only the court, the entire nation is anxious with repeated incidents of such killings and these incidents are tarnishing the image of the country, it observed. It added the court is not against the government, it wants to assist the government to establish rule of law, and to see that the incidents of extrajudicial killing are stopped.

If the court takes action against a few of the involved Rab officials, who are responsible for such unfettered incidents, the entire force will be careful and will not dare to commit such incidents further, the court added. It went on to say that the Attorney General's Office should cooperate with the court in holding hearing of the rule so that it can pass necessary orders to stop these incidents.

Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told the court this is a very important matter and its hearing should be held for a long time. He prayed to the court to adjourn the hearing and fix a date of further hearing on reopening of the court after the winter vacation.

The court will go on winter vacation on December 18 and will reopen on January 3. The court said it would hold hearing on the matter after one week of reopening of the court. Following newspaper reports on killings of Khairul and Lutfor, the HC on November 17 issued the suo moto rule upon Rab officials Lt Hasan, Maj Kazi Wahiduzzaman, the DG and the home secretary.

The court asked them to explain in 48 hours why appropriate action should not be taken against Maj Wahiduzzaman and Lt Hasan and their companions for liability of the killings. It also directed the Rab DG to give an explanation in this regard, as heinous activities of extrajudicial killings are carried out in his battalion.

Replying to the rule, the home secretary and two other Rab officials told the court no-one by the name Maj Kazi Wahiduzzaman was found in the Madaripur unit of Rab. Advocate Ruhul Quddus Babu appeared for BLAST and Barrister Saifur Rashid stood for ASK.

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