162 extra-judicial deaths in last 300 days: Odhikar

Staff Correspondent, NewAge, November 9, 2007. Dhaka, Bangladesh

The number of extra-judicial killings in the country has risen to 162 in the 300 days since the declaration of the ongoing state of emergency on January 11 to November 7, said Odhikar, a human rights organisation, on Thursday.

In the last 30 days till Monday, nine people were killed extra-judicially by the law enforcers, according to the report released by Odhikar on the state of human rights in Bangladesh.

Of the 162 slain people, the Rapid Action Battalion killed 81, the police 57, RAB and the police jointly three, the army-led joint forces seven, the army seven, the navy three, the jail police one, the Department of Narcotics Control one, the Coast Guard one and the Bangladesh Rifles one, said the report.

Of the deceased, 111 people were killed in so-called crossfire, 26 were tortured to death, 14 were shot dead, and the remaining 11 were killed in other circumstances, the report added.

The report also mentioned that the police initiated an inquiry into the death of Morshed Rana, who died at Narsingdi model police station on October 28. This is the sole example of an inquiry into an extra-judicial death after emergency was imposed.

‘Disregard for the due process of law and the selective application of the laws are violations of the people’s human rights. There is serious and widespread cause for concern that the actions of this government in many aspects of policy — prosecution and judicial process, judicial inquiries and the impunity of law enforcement agencies — are dictated less and less by the law,’ said Odhikar in the report.

The report said the controversial decision of the Election Commission to send an invitation for dialogue to the Saifur Rahman-led BNP faction has led sections of the media to question its neutrality.

Odhikar urged the EC to work independently, without being unduly influenced by the government or any other quarter.

The print and electronic media, which have a reputation for freedom and impartiality, have been under significant pressure from the government to refrain from reporting news or comments that are critical of it, said the report.

In the 300 days of the emergency, the authorities have conducted several eviction drives against unauthorised constructions, buildings and habitations, without making provisions for the resettlement of the displaced poor people, said the report.

Arresting university teachers in August without warrants, holding them incommunicado for nearly 40 hours at an unknown location before being brought to a court, violating the constitution and detaining them in the Joint Interrogation Cell, have caused concern that their rights under national and international laws are not being respected by the authorities, and the due process of law is not being followed, the report mentioned.

Throughout the 300 days of the emergency, many workers of jute mills and garment factories have protested while demanding full payment of the wages to which they are entitled. Many of these workers have been arrested for violating the state of emergency, the report said.

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