DESPITE worldwide criticism of extrajudicial killing in the name of drug abuse control, the government seems unperturbed. Two suspected pedlars were killed in ‘gunfight’ with the Rapid Action Battalion Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar early Tuesday, taking the death toll to 299 in anti-drug drive that began in May 2018. Since the Awami League assumed office in 2009, as Odhikar says, at least 1,822 people were killed extrajudicially the party’s election manifestos professed zero tolerance to extrajudicial killing. But it did nothing to prevent criminal misconduct of the law enforcement agencies. The Awami League in its election manifesto for the 2018 national elections sidestepped burning issues and committed nothing in terms of custodial torture and death of crime suspects without trial. Its pledges to make the law enforcement agencies people-friendly included improvement in police ration and the modernisation of the law enforcement agencies through infrastructural development and the upgrade of weaponry with advanced security technology.
The relentless extrajudicial killing is particularly shocking as Bangladesh is a member state of the UN Human Rights Council. The Asian Legal Resource Centre, in the 39th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council, has expressed concern about the way the government was unleashing violence against its own citizens. What is even more shocking is the AL lawmakers in September 2017 said that drug dealers should be killed in firing squads and that they do not deserve to live. Instead of investigation of the death without trial and enforcement of the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act in 2013 to curb criminal misconduct of the police, the AL-led government has enacted laws that further empower the law enforcement agencies to search, seize and arrest ordinary citizens. The Digital Security Act and the Narcotics Control Act are cases in point. Moreover, during the election year, the government used the police to maintain political control and maintained an appeasing attitude when it came to holding law enforcement agencies to account. The promotion of 286 assistant superintendents of police to the rank of additional superintendent in December 2018 for electoral gains is one example of such appeasement. The prevailing situation demonstrates the eschewed and fatally flawed legal values the ruling quarters have internalised in Bangladesh.
The government must acknowledge that without redressing the corruption and criminal misconduct, only modernising the force with advanced security technology as described in its election manifesto will be superficial and will not help it to gain back people’s trust. In what follows, the incumbents must strictly enforce the Supreme Court guideline and the 2013 anti-torture act to afford citizens the needed justice and reduce the level of wrongs that the law enforcement agencies commit against citizens.
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