‘Crossfire’ continues flouting HC orderM Moneruzzaman
Extrajudicial killings by law enforcers in ‘crossfire’ flouting an order issued by the High Court on December 14, 2009 continues to baffle lawyers and human rights watchers as several writ petitions challenging such killings await disposal.
On December 14, 2009, the High Court asked the authorities not to kill any more people in ‘crossfire’ or ‘encounters’ until it hears the rule it issued suo moto on November 17, 2009 on the government.
And extrajudicial killings claimed 196 lives since January 2010.
Before the High Court issued the ban on November 14, 2009, a total of 188 deaths occurred in ‘crossfire.’
The bench of Justice AFM Abdur Rahman and Justice Md Emdadul Haque Azad issued the rule suo moto asking the government to explain why the killing of two brothers in the custody of Rapid Action Battalion in ‘crossfire’ on November 16, 2009 in Madaripur would not be declared illegal.
The same bench on December 14, 2009 asked the authorities not to kill any more people in the name of ‘crossfire,’ ‘encounter’ or ‘gunfight’ until it hears the rule.
The bench set January 11, 2010 to hear the rule following a petition the attorney general filed on December 14, 2009 seeking time.
The hearing on the rule became uncertain as the chief justice on January 7, 2010 reshuffled the benches in the High Court Division and assigned Justice AFM Abdur Rahman and Justice Md Emdadul Haque Azad who had issued the rule to another bench.
The attorney general, Mahbubey Alam told New Age, ‘The government has nothing to do about the hearing as its depends on the chief justice.’
Asked whether the bench that had issued the rule could hear the matter, the attorney general said, ‘I do not know.’
He said that he was also unable to say whether the chief justice would assign the matter to the same bench since it’s a ‘part-heard matter.’
No incident of ‘crossfire’ or extrajudicial killing by the law enforcers took place from December 14, 2009, when the High Court issued the ban until January 9, 2010.
Following the ban, the first extrajudicial killing by the law enforcers occurred on January 9, 2010 two days after it became uncertain whether or not the hearing in the rule would take after the reshuffle of the High Court benches.
On September 12, two persons were killed in ‘gunfight’ with Rapid Action Battalion —one each at Ambaria in Kushtia and Savar in Dhaka, increasing the crossfire death toll to 350 since the Awami League-led government took office on January 6, 2009.
And the government is yet to reply to the rules the High Court had issued earlier asking it to explain why extrajudicial killings by law enforcers in the name of ‘crossfire’ or ‘encounters’ would not be declared illegal.
On June 29, 2009 the bench of Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain and Justice Quamrul Islam Siddiqui issued the rule after hearing a public interest litigation writ petition filed by rights organisations Ain o Salish Kendra, Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust and Karmajibi Nari challenging the legality of the extrajudicial killings.
On May 25, 2006 the High Court issued the first rule in this regard asking the government to explain why the killing of Tunda Islam in police custody should not be properly investigated and why the perpetrators should not be brought to justice. Tunda was in fetters when the incident took place.
The rule was issued by the bench of Justice M Awlad Ali and Justice Zinat Ara.
Shown arrested in an arms case and remanded in the custody of Lalbagh police station for interrogation, Tunda Islam was in fetters when he was killed in ‘crossfire on May 22, 2006,’ the police claimed.
On August 6, 2006, the bench of Justice Syed Muhammad Dastagir Husain and Justice Mamnoon Rahman issued a rule asking the government and RAB to explain why they should not be directed to ensure the security of detained persons in their custody.
The court issued the order after hearing a public interest litigation writ petition filed by Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh, which sought the court’s directive on the government and RAB to protect the life of anyone detained from being killed in ‘crossfire’ or ‘encounters.’
Although the government had replied to the rules issued by the High Court on August 6, 2006, the case is yet to be disposed of, said the rights group’s lawyer Manzill Murshid.
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