RAB director general Hasan Mahmud Khandaker has defended deaths.
He said a total of 60 people died in 57 encounters with the RAB in the year. "Each gun battle involving RAB has been put through departmental investigation, but no wrongdoings were found. So we can say all the incidents were justified, " Khandaker said on Tuesday.
The force is accountable for every bullet spent and weapon used, he explained to reporters at a meeting on the evaluation of RAB activities in 2009 at RAB's headquarters in Kurmitola. But he also said his force is not infallible. "We also make mistakes, but these are very small in number." "As law-enforcers, we do not want anyone to die 'for no reason'. But, it is a different thing if someone dies in a raid."
He also said 164 RAB members faced departmental penalty for violations. Of them, 108 faced penalty for minor violations and 58 others for major ones. In addition, he said, five RAB members faced criminal cases. Khandaker said criminals are committing crimes in the name of law-enforcers, which RAB is investigating. RAB captured 16,436 people on charges of terrorism, extortion, kidnap, militancy in 2009, according to the chief.
Human-rights organisations have been expressing concern over the rate of extra-judicial killings in the country though the government claims that no such killings are taking place. The government says law enforcers only fire weapons in defence, and deaths by shooting occur only where the suspect is armed and exchange of gunfire takes place.
However, such killings are commonly referred to as 'crossfire' killings in the media and common parlance, a term that has come to imply suspicious, or extra-judicial, killings. The High Court on June 29 had ordered the government to explain why killings without trial in so-called "crossfire" should not be declared illegal.
It also asked why departmental and criminal actions should not be taken against those who perpetrate such killings of suspects in custody or others. RAB has said around over 570 people have been killed in encounter/shootout incidents with the elite force around the country in the five years since its formation in 2004.
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina herself announced in February this year that the extra-judicial killings perpetrated during the tenure of the military-installed interim government would be investigated.