ALTHOUGH the government has claimed that it is sincere in protecting human rights, human rights defenders have termed the country’s rights situation alarming and repressive as extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance and custodial torture continued despite the government’s commitment to international community to maintain ‘zero tolerance’ policy for criminal liabilities of law enforcers. According to a local rights group Odhikar, 1,877 people became victim to extrajudicial killing between 2009 and October 2018 in the name of ‘crossfire’ or ‘gunfight’. Between 2009 and 2013, the number was 764 while it rose to 1,113 between January 2014 and October 2018; and 486 people were subjected to enforced disappearance between January 2009 and October 2018. Of them, 132 disappeared between 2009 and 2013 in the first tenure of the Awami League-led government while the rest 354 disappeared in its second tenure. The number of inmates in the country’s 68 jails reached 97,746 on November 4 against their capacity of 36,614 ahead of the 11th parliamentary elections.
It would be pertinent to mention that in the face of growing demand from conscious sections of society for preventing custodial death and torture, the government passed a law in 2013 criminalising deaths and torture in custody of the police and other law enforcing agencies. The law was enacted in compliance with the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman Treatment or Punishment. But still we are swamped with a large number of reports of deaths in police custody. While this kind of killings has touched off strong criticism and condemnation at home and abroad, especially by national and international human rights organisations, and prompted the High Court to issue a series of rules on the government in this regard, a section of law enforcers have appeared unperturbed and are continuing with this practice of torturing and killing. The Awami League-led government, in line with the 2008 AL manifesto, did talk tough against extrajudicial killings in early days of its previous tenure and even publicly announced the adoption of a ‘zero toleration’ policy against such killings. Regrettably, these words have hardly translated into reality. What actually came about afterwards is that the incumbents soon sought to defend such extrajudicial killings on the plea of the law enforcers’ right to self-defence. According to Ain o Salish Kendra, 437 people were killed in the custody of law enforcement authorities or in the name of ‘encounter, crossfire or gunfight’ in first 10 months of 2018. Overall, the government and law enforcers seem to lack sincerity to put an end to such monstrosities which could lead to more lawlessness and weaken the fabric of the state and society. Most importantly, enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killing erode public faith in law enforcement and may prompt people to take the law into their own hands.
Hence it is incumbent on the government to put an end to such unconstitutional killings and to instruct law enforcers to act in complete adherence to relevant rules so that human rights violation by law enforcers can be stopped once and for all.
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