Death in ‘Gunfight’

No protective gear for suspects raises question

Muktadir Rashid | Published: 01:36, Jul 14,2019


Law enforcers produce crime suspects in protective gear before the press and in courts but do not do so when they take out the suspects in night-time operations for cohort arrests and arms or drugs recovery.

The double standards of the law enforcement agencies raised concern among rights activists and citizens as such operations often caused death of suspects in ‘crossfire’ or ‘gangland infighting’.

The home minister, Asaduzzaman Khan, however, claimed that law enforcers always tried to protect the detained suspects and some police officials claimed that they usually took suspects in bulletproof vests and helmets.

The rights activists brushed aside the claim as in almost all cases, the suspects who died in such operations were hit with bullets in the head or the chest.

Commercially important person Saiful Karim died in a reported gunfight at Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar a few hours after his arrest about 10:00pm on May 31.

The Teknaf police officer-in-charge, Pradip Kumar Das, said that they had taken Saiful to Teknaf port in search of Yaba and firearms based on information that he had given and he had died in ‘gunfight’ as his accomplices fired into the law enforcers.

Asked whether Saiful was given a bullet-proof vest or a helmet in the operation, Pradip angrily said, ‘Why a criminal would be given a bullet-proof vest? Even we do not have them.’

Rights organisation Odhikar says that 201 people were killed in reported ‘gunfight’ in January-June.

Rights group Ain o Salish Kendra reported the death of 42 such suspects after their arrest and in operations for arms recovery or cohort arrests.

It said that 86 of 412 people killed in 2018 and 29 of 412 killed in 2017 in reported gunfight were in custody.

Supreme Court lawyer and rights activist Shahdeen Malik said that people never believed ‘so-called incidents of gunfight’.

He said that the very process of taking suspects for operations in search of arms of other suspects was unconstitutional as Article 35(4) of the constitution stipulates: ‘No person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.’

As for production of the accused in courts in bullet-proof vests and helmets, Shahdeen Malik said that it was ‘nothing more than showing excuses’ as the law enforcers continued taking suspects for operations without safety gear.

Former Ain o Salish Kendra executive director Nur Khan Liton told New Age that ‘the people hardly believe the stories that are almost similar in nature… But, unfortunately, this is the worst negligence by the law enforcers to the detained in custody.’

On June 14, 2016, suspected extremist Golam Faizullah Fahim was captured by a group of young people when he was getting away after attacking Ripan Chakraborty, a lecturer in the Government Nazimuddin University College,  in the Madaripur district headquarters.

On June 17, 2016, the police produced him in a Madaripur court in a bullet-proof vest and a helmet.

On June 18, 2016, he was killed in a reported ‘gunfight’ when the police carried out an operation at Miachar of in the district about 7:00am to arrest other suspects in the attack, the then Madaripur police superintendent Md Sarwar Hossain later on the day told the media.

Md Sarwar, now in the tourist police unit, claimed that they had taken all measures to protect the suspect during the operation. ‘But sometimes bullet-proof vest cannot protect the suspects.

The body had a single bullet injury in the left chest and the deceased was handcuffed, according to a photograph.

Police headquarters assistant inspector general (media and public relations) Sohel Rana has yet to respond to a New Age query made on July 5 on why crime suspects are not taken out in bullet-proof vests and helmets during such operations.

The home minister, however, said that gunfights only ensued when criminals attacked law enforcers.

He claimed that the law enforcers had maintained the highest precaution to protect any detained suspect.

But he could not say whether the suspects were taken out in bullet-proof vests and helmets during operations in search of arms or other suspects.

On June 28, 2019, Border Guard Bangladesh battalion of Cumilla in a release said that ‘wanted drug peddler’ Prashant Kumar Das, 28, was killed in a ‘gunfight’ when they carried out an operation with him in search of his accomplices at Bibirbazar about 1:00am.

Border Guard battalion 10 commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Abu Mohammad Mohiuddin claimed that they had ensured all necessary protection for the detained suspect.

Prashanta’s elder brother Ramu Das alleged that the body had marks of injuries and only a single bullet had him in the head.

The police headquarters has also yet to respond to a query made on June 23 as to how many cases have so far been filed for torture and death in custody since the enactment of the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act 2013 on October 24, 2013.

According to the law, for any death in custody, the custodian would be jailed for life and fined Tk 1,00,000. In addition, the custodian would need to pay Tk 2,00,000 the family of the victim in compensation.

In 2015, the police authorities sent a proposal to the home ministry for the repeal of Section 12 of the act, which stipulates that no circumstances such as ‘war, threat of war, internal political instability or any public emergency, or an order from a superior or a public authority’ would be acceptable as an excuse for custodial death or torture.

On January 23, 2017, a field-level police officer at an annual gathering of the police in Dhaka urged the prime minister to repeal act.

On July 10, the Pabna police issued a release stating that robbery suspect Saiful Islam Geda, 30, was arrested at Sujanagar about 7:15pm on July 9 and killed in a ‘gunfight’ between the police and his associates during an operation for arms recovery.

Asked whether the suspect was given a helmet and a bullet-proof vest during the operation, the Pabna police superintendent Sheikh Rafikul Islam said, ‘In such cases, we usually do not use them.’ He also could not say if the police personnel injured, as mentioned in the release, in the operation were in bullet-proof vests and helmets.

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