EXTRAJUDICIAL killing in the name of drives against drug substances by personnel of the law enforcement agencies continues. In the latest reported incident, two people suspected of being involved in drug peddling were killed in a ‘gunfight’ with Rapid Action Battalion personnel on the Dhaka–Chittagong Highway in the BSCIC area in Feni early Monday, taking the total figure of such death in the ongoing drives to 222 since May 15. The battalion personnel being tipped off, as New Age reported on Tuesday, set up a check point at Mahipal in the BSCIC area. When a speeding motorcycle crossed the check point about 4:00am, RAB personnel chased the riders, leading to a ‘gunfight’. As the firing stopped, RAB personnel rescued two bullet-hit men and took them to General Hospital in Feni, where they were pronounced dead.
The Awami League-led government, in line with its 2008 election manifesto, did talk tough against extrajudicial killing in early days of its previous tenure and even publicly announced the adoption of a ‘zero tolerance’ policy against such killings. However, such tough talks were not supplemented with stringent action, either legal or departmental. Worse still, the incumbents soon sought to defend such killing on the plea of the law enforcers’ right to self-defence; their rhetoric has since continued in the same vein. In fact, some cabinet members also argued that such killings were necessary to combat crimes and terrorism. In such circumstances, a steep increase in extrajudicial killing since the beginning of 2014 appears hardly surprising. While such killings have given rise to strong criticism at home and abroad, especially by national and international rights organisations, and prompted the High Court to issue a series of rules on the government in this regard, the law enforcers have appeared generally unperturbed. As we have argued in these columns time and again, extrajudicial killing is an antithesis to the rule of law, which decrees that even the vilest of criminals reserves the right to be defended in the court of law, and that no one, either in uniform or otherwise, has the licence to play the role of the juror and the executioner rolled into one. Moreover, unabated extrajudicial killings by law enforcers risk encouraging people to take the law into their own hands, as it becomes manifest in lynching. We, therefore, believe that the government immediately needs to take effective steps to stop extrajudicial killings by the law enforcement agencies and, by acting thus, the incumbents should live up to their commitment to the adoption of a ‘zero tolerance’ policy against such killings.
It is, thus, imperative that the authorities concerned should order competent and credible inquiry into not only the incident mentioned above but also such other incidents across the country and have the responsible individuals prosecuted and punished exemplarily. It must not trample the rule of law on the excuse of keeping law.
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