Staff Correspondent, NewAge, October 5, 2008
A human rights watchdog has recorded 116 ‘extrajudicial killings’ by law enforcers in the first nine months of this year. The rights coalition, Odhikar, in a report on Saturday said the extrajudicial killings were carried out ‘with absolute impunity’. In its nine months’ human rights report, Odhikar also noted with concern that the government continued to curtail freedom of expression by means of pressure and intimidation of journalists.
The report said in January 2008 eight people were reported killed, while in September, the last month of the period surveyed, the number was 19. In total, 116 people were killed reportedly by law enforcement agencies like RAB, police, BDR, joint forces and coast guards in crossfire, or encounter, or shootout while ten people were allegedly tortured to death in custody during the period.
‘Agencies responsible for protecting the law and only carrying out lawful orders, committed extrajudicial killings with absolute impunity. In the period under review, there was no report of any person involved in such crimes brought to book’, it said.
‘Extrajudicial killings are not only a flagrant violation of the right to life, liberty and security of a person, granted under international laws but equally, the rights guaranteed under the constitution of Bangladesh and other laws’, the report observed.
Odhikar called for an immediate end to the culture of crossfire, absolute impunity and extrajudicial killings. ‘Odhikar further demands that every incident of ‘crossfire’ or similar incidents must be investigated independently and those found responsible should be brought before the law to account for their actions. Commanders and superiors, if involved in either approving or allowing such killings, should also face the law. Officials who failed to stop the practice must also be held responsible.’
The report observed that the fundamental right of freedom of expression had been severely curtailed since the imposition of the state of emergency on January 11, 2007.
It recorded 90 incidents of violence against journalists and pressure on the media in the last nine months. During the period 35 journalists were injured, 15 assaulted, three arrested, 28 journalists were threatened and two cases were filed against journalists, the report said.
Citing different incidents of intimidation on print and electronic media like bar on television channels hold talk shows, it said, ‘the incidents of covert restrictions and harassment on print and electronic media much higher than reported’.
It demanded that the government must respect and ensure freedom of expression and refrain from interfering in the people’s right to know and stop harassing or intimidating members of the press.
On violation of workers rights, the report said, ‘In the face of the rise in the food prices and other subsistence needs and denial of the right of association under emergency – the cumulative effects of human rights violations of the workers are alarming.’
It demanded that the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association should cancel the membership of those business houses who failed to comply with good practice in respecting workers’ rights and their legal contractual obligations as employers.
The report said at least 385 women and girls became victims of rape in the last nine months. Of the victims 164 were women and 221 children aged below 16. A total of 219 women reportedly became victims of dowry demands and of them 154 were killed while a total of 113 persons became victims of acid violence.
The report said that Indian Border Security Force reportedly killed 49 Bangladeshis, injured 29 and 53 were abducted in the last nine months. In some cases, according to reports, BSF intruded into Bangladesh territory and killed Bangladeshi nationals without provocation.