At least 184 people were killed in the ongoing nationwide anti-drug drives in last two months amid protests from political parties and rights groups over the ‘extrajudicial killings’.
Political parties criticized the extrajudicial killings saying that the government was doing it out of unfair motives.
They demanded an end to the extrajudicial killings saying it can provide no solution to the drug menace.
The National Human Rights Commission as well as human rights organizations expressed their concern over the continuing extrajudicial killings and called for immediately stopping it.
The law enforcement agencies arrested over 28,500 suspected drug peddlers and addicts during the drives and produced them before courts in drug related cases.
In the backdrop of sharp rise in drug abuses in the country, the Rapid Action Battalion began its anti-drug drive on May 4 and the police began their drive on May 17.
On May 15, two suspected drug peddlers were killed, for the first time since the drive began on May 4, allegedly in separate gunfights with the RAB, one each at Narayanganj and Kushtia.
And until Friday, at least 184 suspected peddlers and addicts were killed, mostly in ‘gunfights’ with the police or the RAB, according to the accounts of the RAB and the police.
According to the police, some of the peddlers were killed in ‘gunfights’ with rival groups over sharing profits and some were allegedly found dead.
But family members’ accounts differed with what the police and the RAB said.
The alleged peddlers were picked up by plainclothes men, said families, and later the police and the RAB said that they died in ‘gunfights’.
But home minister Asaduzzaman Khan asserted time and again that there were no extrajudicial killings during the anti-drug drives and that they had been killed in ‘gunfights.’
He said that the anti-drug drive would continue until the drug menace was brought under control.
However, the killing of Akramul Haque, a ward councilor of Teknaf municipality in Cox’s Bazar, in what RAB termed a ‘gunfight’ on early May 27 was largely criticized and protested as unverified audio clippings of conversations between Akramul and his family members, provided by his wife on May 31, suggested that he was murdered in cold blood.
The home minister said that the incident was under investigation by a magistrate.
‘Extrajudicial killings can be no solution to the drug menace,’ said Communist Party of Bangladesh president Mujahidul Islam Selim.
‘But, people can misunderstand the motive behind the drive as they think that the government wanted to create fears in people’s hearts for electoral advantage,’ he said.
People want drug free society but the current drives had created questions among their minds, Selim added.
Expressing concern over killings in ‘gunfight’ between ‘drug peddlers’ and law enforcement agencies at places across the country, NHRC chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque said that the drug peddlers should be brought to justice.
He also stated that the law enforcers should carry out the operations keeping human rights in mind and the country’s existing laws so that no innocent person was affected.
He said that they would meet in a meeting with police high ups within two or three days where they would ask the law enforcement agencies to conduct anti-drug drives in accordance with the law so that no extrajudicial killing was committed.
Rights organization Odhikar secretary Adilur Rahman demanded stopping the extrajudicial killings as it is illegal and unacceptable. ‘Punish the drug peddlers under due process of law,’ he urged the government.
The police arrested at least 21,883 suspected drug peddlers and addicts across the country between May 18 and June 21, according to officials at police headquarters who also said that the anti-drug drives was going on.
The RAB arrested 6,794 suspects between May 4 and June 24 and 4,891 drug peddlers and addicts were jailed and fined through mobile courts, RAB officials said.
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