Worrying trends in extra-judicial killings
ON MONDAY, the Rapid Action Battalion was once again in action as seven people were killed in separate ‘encounters’ in Narsingdi and Dhaka. In Narsingdi, the battalion waylaid a group of snatchers escaping a crime scene and mercilessly shot to death six people and injured many others. In Dhaka, a garments waste trader was shot to death in the all-too-familiar ‘crossfire’ with the battalion. So far, 34 people have died since January this year in ‘crossfire’ and ‘encounter’ with the battalion while 329 people have so far been killed by law enforcers since the incumbents assumed power in January 2009. Death in ‘crossfire’ and ‘encounter’ have become so commonplace that they hardly solicit an outrage anymore, even though by all means in should, and it appears that law enforcers are becoming more and more bold in their application of the terms ‘encounter’ and ‘crossfire’ to all kinds of killings and deaths.
While law enforcers continue to ignore the human rights violation and extrajudicial issues that emerge from this, and while subsequent governments continue to provide blanket immunity to such heinous acts, the issue is certainly getting more complicated by the day. Take Monday’s instance. First of all, there is once again clear indication that both the incidents, even the one at Narsingdi, may not have been a case of ‘encounter’, as an eyewitness account claims that the battalion blocked the road and shot at the microbus robbers without being compelled to do so. In Dhaka also, the battalion did not even allow locals to identify the face of the victim. Secondly, it is also time to assess the manner in which our law enforcers are going about controlling crime, whether the punishment is at all proportional to the crime at hand. At Narsingdi, six people were killed for snatching Tk 40,000 from a businessman. It is well worth asking the question whether any court in the country would put to death six people for snatching only Tk 40,000.
A more serious concern is the allegation surrounding the death in Dhaka, of a certain Abdul Momin who, according to his wife, was abducted because of his rivalry with a local Awami League leader. It is not the first time such an allegation has come forth and in fact such allegations are becoming increasingly commonplace. In fact, a number of independent investigations carried out by human rights groups have indicated that a number of people may have been abducted and killed by law enforcers because of personal rivalries. There is indeed now a serious concern that some sections of law enforcers, even members of the battalion, have been used by private groups and individuals to settle scores with personal rivals.
However, such developments were only to be expected. Given the level of immunity provided to law enforcers to carry ‘encounter’ and ‘crossfire’ it was only expected that in time such extra-judicial privileges would start to be badly abused. If left unchecked, it can only get worse from here. The government should immediately take steps to put an end to all forms of extrajudicial killings to ensure that the situation does not get any more dangerous than it already has.
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