Extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearance go unabated in Bangladesh as on an average at least one person has been killed either in custody or in reported gunfight every day in the first three months of 2019.
Bangladesh saw disappearance of 12 people and extrajudicial killing of 91 people between January 1 and March 31, including highest 32 in March, according to a report released by rights organisation Odhikar on Thursday.
Of the 91 victims of extrajudicial killings, 52 were killed by the police, 19 by the Rapid Action Battalion, 11 by Border Guard Bangladesh and the rests were killed by detectives, Bangladesh Coast Guard and army commando, the report said.
Many of the victims of extrajudicial killing were killed in the anti-drug drives that began in May 2018 and killed at least 351 people till March 31, 2019.
At least 12 people disappeared in the first three months of the year while 11 others died in jail, said the report.
Of the disappeared, two were found dead, five surfaced in police custody, one returned home and the whereabouts of the rest four were still unknown.
Rights activists observed that the picture revealed in the Odhikar report represented the culture of impunity going on in the society.
‘Like any other fascist rulers, the government is trying in every way to control freedom of speech just to cling to power,’ rights activist Nur Khan told New Age on Thursday.
‘I think the reality is even more alarming than the Odhikar report as every single citizen is very much concerned about giving any opinion. And I believe the number of extrajudicial killing and enforce disappearance is higher than figures mentioned in the report,’ he said.
National Human Rights Commission chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque, however, doubted the figures mentioned in the Odhikar report.
‘Extrajudicial killing is going on across the globe not only in Bangladesh, but the number of extrajudicial killing and enforced disappearance mentioned in the report seems to be higher than the reality. They should disclose names of the victims so that we can also press on the government with documents,’ he said.
Rights activists said that extrajudicial killing and enforced disappearance wwere going unabated as such denial from the government and even the human rights commission continued to encourage the perpetrators.
Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan on several occasions had denied that extrajudicial killing or enforced disappearance was being committed in Bangladesh. He rather argued that law enforcers opened fires in self-defence being attacked by armed criminals.
In the first quarters of the year, 34 people were killed in political violence, including 22 people in March, said the report.
It said that at 13 people were killed and 551 were injured in 57 incidents of internal clashes of the ruling Awami League during the same period.
At least 15 people were lynched during the first three months of the year, said the report.
The culture of impunity not only retained extrajudicial killings but also kept contributing to deteriorating condition in freedom of expression and press, said the report.
At least 12 journalists were injured and one received threats on life between January and March.
Four journalists were arrested while five were accused in cases believed to have been resulted from their professional work, said the report.
Under the Digital Security Act, 12 people were arrested in the first quarter of the year.
Information minister Hasan Mahmud on several recent occasions claimed that the press in Bangladesh was enjoying more freedom than any time before.
Despite several attempts, Asaduzzaman and Hasan Mahmud could not be reached for comments.
Authorities also cancelled permission twice for the event where Booker Prize-winning Indian writer Arundhati Roy was supposed to participate, said the Odhikar report.
The authorities, however, bowed to public pressure to let the world renowned anti-establishment activist to talk eventually and the event was held, said the report.
As many as 174 women were raped in the three months and 17 became victims of sexual harassment, said the report.
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