Stop “crossfire” deaths: HR watch report reflects what local media has been saying all along

Editorial, The Daily Star, August 14, 2008

THE condemnation of Rab by the US-based Human Rights Watch comes as no surprise to us. We warned the government, time and again, that the crossfire deaths were undermining the edifice of the whole judicial process and whatever Rab had achieved in its anti- terrorism drive. The introduction of the crack force had a positive impact on the crime situation as proliferation of terrorist organisations was threatening law and order. The Rab’s efficiency in containing the threat was commendable, but nothing could justify the deaths in crossfire, the accounts of which invariably followed the same pattern. 

The anti-crime drive was expected to receive a fresh impetus when the present caretaker government took over and people also hoped that all excesses in the name of enforcing law would be eliminated. The crossfire deaths drew sharp criticism from human rights advocates both at home and abroad and the year 2007 saw a welcome decline in such deaths. But in recent months quite a few suspected criminals were reported to have been killed in crossfire, which has again raised serious concern regarding abuse of human rights by Rab. 

The government can ill afford to ignore the issue, which has already sullied our image abroad. And to tell the truth, taking human lives in an unlawful manner should be viewed from not only the legal point of view or the image crisis that it might create, but also the moral perspective. It could be interpreted as a sure sign of the nation being not sensitive enough to the most fundamental right of its citizensthe right to live. We have always opposed the scheme of liquidating suspected criminals unlawfully, while pointing out that such criminals, whatever be the charges against them, have the right to defend themselves in a court.

The Human Rights Watch Report has exposed the ruthlessness of Rab’s way of handling suspected criminals, which has been repeatedly exposed in the local media including The Star. The government’s response should be clear and loud. Such killing must be stopped at once.

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