DEATH in ‘gunfight’ with the law enforcers as they term it and in ‘gangland infighting’ as law enforcers put some of them hardly ceases to make headlines. In the latest such incidents, five people came to die in three districts on Tuesday. Two of the Rohingya refugees, suspected of being involved in trafficking in humans, were killed in ‘gunfight’ with the police on the Cox’s Bazar–Teknaf Marine Drive. Another one, suspected of dealing in drug substances, died in ‘gunfight’ with the police in the Cox’s Bazar district headquarters. The police report a man, suspected of being involved in robbery, to have died in ‘gangland infighting’ in the Jashore district headquarters on the Jashore-Magura Highway. The police yet again report a man suspected of being involved in robbery to have died in ‘gunfight’ with the law enforcers at Ishwardi in Pabna. In all the incidents, the law enforcers seized firearms and bullets, among other objects, from the places of occurrence and in a couple of cases, the victims are reported to have been wanted by the police in several cases. The narratives that go with the cases lead to public credence that all such cases could be extrajudicial killing which have for long raised rights abuse furore at home and abroad.
The government has to fight the menace of drug substances, their abuse and trade, trafficking in humans and robbery, but the cases need to be dealt with in the due process of law. While the drive against narcotic substances that different law enforcement agencies have continued since it began on May 4, 2018, but stepped up in the middle of that month, has so far left at least 373 people dead, the abuse of and trade in drug substances have evidently continued apace. Similarly, the crimes that have prompted such an approach of the law enforcement agencies have hardly declined. Everyone, crime suspect or criminal, has the right to defend and the approach that the government has taken does not seem to be the right way of justice dispensation. Besides, any approach to keep law that is devoid of judicial accountability leaves scopes for abuse and only weakens the judicial process. What also raises concerns is that Rohingyas, given shelter in Bangladesh after they fled violence in Myanmar, come to be treated the way the law enforcers treat other crime suspects of Bangladesh. A couple of more such incidents took place in recent times. All crime suspects, irrespective of the gravity of the crimes that they are suspected to have committed or been involved in, are to be tried in the court of law.
While the government must keep putting in efforts to deter the abuse of and trade in drug substances, and trafficking in humans and hold to account anyone standing in breach of the law, it must, under the circumstances, do all this through adherence to the rule of law. Any justice dispensation devoid of judicial accountability constitutes an affront to the rule of law and weakens the judicial process. The government must afford people the indefeasible constitutional right to defend.
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