Execution on rise in Bangladesh for decades: study 

101 people executed since 1991

Muktadir Rashid | Published: 23:48, Jun 17,2021 | Updated: 00:03, Jun 18,2021


Execution of people has been increasing for decades in Bangladesh, revealed a joint study report released on Thursday. 

One-third of the interviewees in the study alleged that prisoners were tortured in custody, according to the study report released in a webinar.

Dhaka University law department in collaboration with the Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust and The Death Penalty Project conducted the study in 2019-20 to investigate socio-economic characteristics and experiences of death row prisoners in Bangladesh.

The study revealed that at least 101 people had been executed since 1991 and the number of executions had increased significantly since the start of this century.

It stated that 11 executions took place between 1991 and 2000 compared with that of 57 between 2001 and 2010 and at least 33 since 2011.

About 95 per cent of the prisoners were sentenced for homicide and 5 per cent were sentenced on charges of terrorism, the study revealed.

In the study, most respondents said that they were not satisfied with the investigation process and 33 per cent of the interviewees alleged that prisoners were tortured in custody.

Sixty per cent of the respondents said that they were not satisfied with the trial process, with some claiming that courts had failed to properly appreciate the evidence.

On average it took over 10 years for cases to be disposed of by the High Court Division, where death sentences are confirmed, the study found.

The study, however, said that 66 per cent of the interviewees were satisfied with their legal representation while 33 per cent were critical.

Dhaka University law professor Mahbubur Rahman led the study which recorded 39 case files of death-row prisoners and interviews with their families.

The total number of death-row convicts was 1,650 during the time of the study.

The study excluded cases before the International Crimes Tribunal, the ones related to the BDR carnage and international crimes.

The study found that there are 33 crimes punishable by death in Bangladesh and the punishment for nine of the offences were introduced during colonial rule by Britain, one during the Pakistan period between 1947 and 1971 and rest 23 after independence of Bangladesh in 1971.

Professor Mahbubur in the webinar said that 25 of the death penalty offences were non-lethal and arguably, did not meet the threshold of the ‘most serious crimes’ under the international law.

As the chief guest of webinar, Dhaka University pro-vice-chancellor ASM Maksud Kamal launched the study report, saying that the study was the first of its kind in Bangladesh.

He said that there was a need of such empirical research on death penalty in the country.

Rahmat Ullah, another Dhaka University law professor, observed that the number of executions had been increasing gradually over the years. 

Thomas Baumgartner, the head of political, economic and cultural affairs at Switzerland embassy in Dhaka, said that they were campaigning for abolishing of death penalty.

Nijamul Haque Nasim, a retired justice at the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, said that it was told that death penalty could reduce crime and corruption, but practically it had not happened.

Asif Nazrul, chairman of the law department at Dhaka University, Carolyn Hoyle, director at the Death Penalty Research Unit at Oxford University, and Sara Hossain, a Supreme Court lawyer, among others, attended the virtual programme.

Want stories like this in your inbox?

Sign up to exclusive daily email