Friday, December 10, 2010

Human Rights Day today.

Extrajudicial killing, torture continue apace
By Shahiduzzaman, Human Rights Day will be observed in Bangladesh, as elsewhere in the world, today with extrajudicial killing and torture going unabated and freedom of press and expression being at stake. The theme of the day this year is ‘Human rights defenders who act to end discrimination.’

According to rights watchdog Odhikar, 249 journalists were killed, attacked, arrested, intimidated or subjected to other forms for rights violation between January 1 and November 30. Three journalists were killed, 109 injured, 40 assaulted, 17 attacked, 2 arrested, 1 abducted, 48 threatened and 13 were sued and 16 became victims of other forms of rights violation mainly by the ruling class and other powerful quarters for publishing reports in 11 months.

Amar Desh special correspondent Oliullah Noman had to serve a month in jail and his acting editor Mahmudur Rahman is still in jail on charges of contempt of court for publishing a report. In 2009, three journalists were killed, 84 injured, 45 assaulted, 16 attacked, one arrested, two abducted, 73 threatened, 23 sued and 19 became victims of other forms of rights violations.

Extrajudicial killing in the name of ‘crossfire’ or ‘encounter’ and torture in custody are going apace marking the severest form of violation of rights by the state machinery, law enforcers in particular. According to Odhikar, 116 persons became victims of extrajudicial killing in nine months till November 30. One hundred and forty-five people were killed by law enforcers in the incidents of reported ‘crossfire’ in the same period in 2009.

A total of 243 people have been killed in crossfire,’ ‘encounter’ or ‘gunfight’ after January 6, 2009, according to a New Age tally, when the Awami League-led government assumed office, with the government’s deviation from its pledges to stop such killings. The Awami League-led government assumed office on January 6 after a landslide win in the December 2008 general elections on the wings of a number of pre-election pledges, which include an end to extrajudicial killing.

The extrajudicial killing, however, still go unabated with the government’s gradual shift in position — from condemnation to justification — with regard to such killing. At least 87 people have so far been killed in ‘crossfire’ since the High Court on December 14, 2009 directed the authorities not to kill any more people in ‘crossfire’ or ‘encounter’ until it disposes of a rule it issued suo moto on the government to explain extrajudicial killing.

The government is also 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.

According to Odhikar, 101 people died in custody and 22 were tortured to death in custody by law enforcers. Sixty-six Bangladeshis were killed by India’s Border Security Force in nine months till November 30. According to the rights watchdog, 16,839 people became victims of political violence during the same period. Of them, 19 were killed, 1,380 injured, 988 arrested and two became victims of other forms of political violence. During the same period in the past year, 15,146 people became victims of political violence.

In nine months, four people were killed, 2,224 injured and 172 arrested in the incidents of protests in apparel sector unrest. During the same period in 2009, seven were killed 1,273 injured and 15 arrested. Harassment of women and girls became a major form of human rights violation this year. In nine months, 623 people became victims of stalking, according to Odhikar. Of them, 20 were killed, 23 committed suicide, 9 attempted to commit suicide, 244 were injured, 4 were abducted, 16 faced attempted abduction, 19 were faced attempted rape, 130 were assaulted and 43 became victims of other forms of injury of stalking.

Three hundred and ninety-six of the offenders in harassment cases and their relations were, however, arrested during the same period. According to Odhikar, 239 women and 289 girls were raped 59 women and 28 girls were killed after rape and a women and four girls committed suicide after being raped in nine months. Besides, 227 women and eight children were killed, 112 women were tortured and 22 women committed suicide in dowry-related violence in nine months.

According to rights organisation Ain o Salish Kendra, 90 people were lynched in nine months, marking a severe deterioration in law and order across the country. Against the backdrop, different institutions and organisations chalked up detailed programmes to observe the rights day.

Odhikar held a discussion in its office at Gulshan on Thursday on freedom of the media. It will hold a report launch programme and a discussion on ‘Trigger Happy: Excessive Use of Force by Indian Troops at the Bangladesh Border’ at the BRAC Centre Inn on December 13.

Ain o Salish Kendra held a three-day human rights conference at the National Youth Centre at Savar. The conference began on Thursday and will end on Saturday. The Manusher Jonno Foundation will hold a music festival at Dhaka University at 3:00pm today. The United Nations Association of Bangladesh will hold a symposium at the BRAC Centre Inn at 10:00am. The Bangladesh Christian Writers’ Forum will hold a programme on human rights in poems at the CBCB Centre on Asad Avenue at 3:00pm. Bangladesh Manabadhikar Samanway Parishad will form a human chain in front of the National Press Club at 10:30am. The Bangladesh Human Rights Watch Organisation will hold a discussion on the rule of law, democracy and human rights at the National Museum at 6:00pm. Bangabandhu Sangskritik Parishad will hold a discussion on war crimes and human rights at Mukti Bhaban at Paltan at 10:00am. Jatiya Ganatantrik League will hold a discussion at Mukti Bhaban at 3:00pm. Manabadhikar O Paribesh Sangbadik Society will form a human chain in front of the National Press Club at 10:00a

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