IT IS disparaging that another killing of a suspected drug pedlar in Kishoreganj early Thursday took the death toll of the anti-drug drive across Bangladesh to 143 in 24 days amidsts protests at home and abroad against ‘extrajudicial killings.’ The government should not forget that the constitution confers on the citizens indefeasible fundamental rights in Article 32 — ‘No person shall be deprived of life or personal liberty save in accordance with law’ — and in Article 35(3) — ‘Every person accused of a criminal offence shall have the right to a speedy and public trial by an independent and impartial Court or tribunal established by law.’ Extrajudicial killing is an antithesis to the rule of law, which decrees that even the vilest of criminals reserves the right to defence in the court of law, and that no one has the licence to play the role of jury, judge and executioner rolled into one. Political parties and rights groups, as New Age reported on Friday, therefore, have the right to hold peaceful procession in protest against such killings. But law enforcers assaulted demonstrators in Dhaka during their protests against the killing of unarmed people in the ongoing drive. None dared to protest against such killing outside the capital for fear of the government getting increasingly intolerant.
Attacks by law enforcers on peaceful processions of protesters again provide a pointer to the government’s increasing predilections for constricting space for democratic protests against its flawed policies. The government has a tendency to let loose law enforcers in a similar fashion against any such protests by any groups with similar demands. There are little reasons for surprise at the government resorting to such coercive means to tackle the protests given its track record on handling such protests in the past few years. The government employed not only law enforcement agencies but also hooligans tied to the ruling party to foil even innocuous programmes such as human chains organised by political parties and other groups on several occasions. While the constitution allows every citizen to hold protests, political and otherwise, against any wrongdoing of the government or any other entity peacefully, the law enforcement agencies are expected not to attack the protesters as long as the protest remains peaceful.
The government needs to realise that as the manager of the state its duty is to protect citizens’ constitutional rights. Hence, it immediately needs to make a course correction when it comes to dealing with public protests against specially ‘extrajudicial killing’, not to mention take actions against the law enforcers who attacked peaceful processions or killed suspected drug pedlars.
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