Friday, December 11, 2009

Round Table:

Call for sustained campaign against extrajudicial killings

By Bangladesh Media; Politicians, rights activists, journalists and civil society actors on Thursday stressed the need for a sustained campaign for mobilizing public opinion against state-sponsored extrajudicial killings in order to establish rule of law.

Rule of law will remain a far cry if extrajudicial killings, torture and injustice cannot be done away with, said the speakers at a seminar organized jointly by Odhikar, a coalition of human rights activists and New Age, an English language national daily newspaper, at Spectra Convention Centre in Dhaka to mark International Human Rights Day.

They also asked the political authorities to use their good offices to put an end to injustice and nurture a democratic polity by admitting the mistakes they were making.

The organizers said that the recent spate of extrajudicial killings which began with the inception of Rapid Action Battalion, an elite force instituted to combat crimes, in June 2004, took lives of many by this time. As many as 1,462 people were killed by the law enforcers, who had cooked up almost similar stories for every killing, during the period. Among them 141 were killed during the first 10 months of the present Awami League-led government which assumed office in January 2009.

Former adviser to the caretaker administration Moinul Hossain Chowdhury, Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader Moyeen Khan, Odhikar adviser Ahmed Zia Uddin, Jatiya Samajtanrik Dal’s lawmaker Shah Zikrul Ahmed, BNP’s lawmaker Shammi Akhter, Biplobi Workers Party leader Saiful Haq, BRAC University teacher Piash Karim, Communist Party of Bangladesh leader Mahbubul Alam, Jatiya Mukti Council leader Faizul Hakim Lala, lawyer Sultana Akhter Rubi, and Manjurul Alam, a relative of crossfire victim Kayser Mohammad Bappi, addressed, among others, the seminar presided over by Adilur Rahman Khan. New Age editor Nurul Kabir moderated the session.

Manjurul Alam described how his innocent brother-in-law, Kayser Mohammad Bappi, was branded a criminal and killed by the RAB in the city’s Rampura area on September 10. He said the state machinery which had failed to save Bappi’s life, was now trying to brand him a criminal to justify the killing.

‘The state has no right to brand an innocent person a criminal,’ he said. ‘We are helpless when our lawmen open fire on us instead of protecting the lives of the citizens in an independent country,’ he said.
Moinul Hossain Chowdhury termed the extrajudicial killings a manifestation of indiscipline in the disciplined forces. Criminalization of law enforcing agencies, judiciary and politics has made lawmen unruly, observed the retired major general of Bangladesh army.

‘Politicians must decide whether the crossfire killings will stop,’ he said adding that killing unarmed people was cowardice on the part of a soldier. The former adviser called upon the authorities to scrap a number of black laws to ensure justice. He hoped that trial of the crossfire killings would take place in course of time.
Moyeen Khan said no killing was acceptable whether it was judicial or extrajudicial. The provision for death sentence should be scrapped to ensure justice, said the former minister asking the cross section of people to raise their voices against cruelty and inhuman treatment of people in any form.

He also called for a thorough review of the country’s legal system. The BNP leader suggested scrapping of the provision for remanding someone in the custody of law enforcers, detention before charge framing and cancellation of the system of seeking bail in the courts, which he believed would help curb extrajudicial killings. For a change, he said, the overall political culture must change for the wellbeing of the people.
Ahmed Zia Uddin called upon rival political camps to stop trading blames for extrajudicial killings. He also requested political leaders to keep in mind that no movement for protection of human rights violated rights of other people. Nurul Kabir said Bangladesh’s war of independence was a struggle for restoration of human rights. The struggle was to ensure one’s right to express views fearlessly at the social and political levels, but the battle still continued.

A united movement of all democratic forces is a must involving majority of the people to win the battle for establishing rule of law, he said.

BNP lawmaker Shammi Akhter said, ‘Whoever assumes power becomes hypocritical and such attitude should change. She called for ensuring accountability of all for a just society. Piash Karim wondered how the authorities, who could not put Bappi’s killers on trial, would hold trial of other killings. He observed that mainstream politics in the country was suffering from bankruptcy, and that there should be an alternative stream of politics for democratization. Pisah also called for initiating a social movement against all sorts of injustice.

Mahbubul Alam said every effort to strengthen democracy would go in vain without putting an end to extrajudicial killings. Lawmaker Zikrul Ahmed said there should be constant pressure on the two major political parties to be sincere about rule of law. He also emphasized education of the people and reduction of poverty for a society free of injustice. 

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