Thursday, March 4, 2010

18 killed in custody in two months defying HC order

By Bangladesh Media, At least 18 people were killed while in custody, despite the High Court's December 14 ruling against extra-judicial killings in the name of crossfire, encounter or shootouts. According to a local human rights organization the number is 15 up to the end of the month of February 2010.

On December 14, 2009, the High Court asked authorities to stop 'crossfire' until the next hearing on the rule scheduled for January 9. But the hearing could not be held due to reconstitution of HC benches prior to that date. According to a report released Monday by a Bangladeshi human rights organization, at least 15 people were killed while in the custody of law enforcement agencies up to the month of February. But till date the updated number is 18, since the December 14 High Court ruling. Among them, ten were killed in Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) custody and five in police custody while three were killed in joint custody of RAB and police. Five people were killed in January ten in February and three in March.

Judges AFM Abdur Rahman and Md Emdadul Haque Azad on December 14 expressed anxiety following the killing of 11 people in custody since the November 17 ruling that asked authorities to explain the killings. The ruling, called a suo motu, is a unilateral court decision made without the presence of a complaint. Attorney General Mahbubey Alam informed different law enforcement agencies about the HC concern so that measures could be taken to stop such killings. The court expressed grave concern over the extra-judicial killings, saying the practice should be stopped to ensure the rule of law.

On November 17, 2009 the same High Court had issued a suo motu rule following newspaper reports the same day on the killing of Lutfar Rahman Khalasi and Khairul Haque Akand Sagor while they were under RAB custody in Madaripur. Another rule regarding crossfire killing is pending in the High Court, which on June 29 asked the government to explain within four weeks why extra- judicial killings by law enforcement agencies should not be declared illegal.

The government was also asked to explain why departmental and criminal action should not be taken against the perpetrators. The government has not replied to the eight-month-old ruling, according to court sources. The case follows a joint petition filed by the Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) and Odhikar challenging the legality of the killings. In December, human rights organisations BLAST and ASK submitted separate statements saying that over 1,000 people had been killed in custody in crossfire, or gunfights since the RAB was formed in 2004. But the actual figure is 1656.

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