July 6, 2012 in Publication

Fire cannot be crossed but in definition when someone suddenly came in between a fire opening from two ends the person in the middle dies calling the reason CROSSFIRE. In a scenario when at one end the law enforcing agency and miscreants at the other end the middle man dies also a crossfire but any person of the other end dies calling encounter and both of them terms in law as extra judicial killing.

Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) was established on March 26, 2004 and since its establishment,  a total of 720 (Approximate) alleged criminals have so far been killed in the name of “crossfire” or “encounter”. In the last 8 years in Bangladesh the law enforcing agency specially RAB since its inception discharging its duty as not only an enforcing agency but an executing agency also who perhaps not believe in the legal system of the country in exist. Recapping the incidents in the recent past that after any death due to crossfire the RAB by releasing press note has been firmly disclosing that after arresting any criminal while the RAB alongwith that person went to recover arms all on a sudden the associated criminals begin fire and on safety reason when RAB opens fire only the person who already arrested has been died and no body from the other side or from the RAB injured or died and at the same time RAB disclosed a series number of criminal cases pending against the person dead.

In some cases like Narshingdi Case, Kushtia Case, Sirajganj Case, Limon Case and lastly Dakat Shahid Case the statements made by the RAB through press release they reasonably creates doubt in the mind of the people about the fact and truth indicating all are cool headed not for safety reason.

Recently in a speech the Head of Delegation of the European Commission  Dr Stefan Frowein said that “It falls to the judiciary and the new National Human Rights Commission to ensure that human rights are fully enforced, not least with respect to allegations of torture and extrajudicial killings by security forces. If there is no punishment for such crimes, there is no deterrent emanating from the State and such violence becomes sanctioned, officially or unofficially. Clearly, it is important to ensure that the fight against crime and terrorism is conducted effectively, but that can only be ensured in a sustained way by respecting the rule of law.”

In the World Report 2012 the Human Rights Watch in the caption of  “Torture, Extrajudicial Killings, and Other Abuses” narrated that “Despite strong evidence that security forces were continuing to arbitrarily arrest people, often torturing and then killing them in custody, the home minister refused to acknowledge the need for accountability. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said her government had zero tolerance for extrajudicial killings, but failed to properly investigate allegations and prosecute the perpetrators.

On May 21, 2011, William Gomes, a representative of the Asian Human Rights Commission, was allegedly picked up by plainclothes RAB personnel and taken to a place his abductors described as “headquarters,” where he was stripped naked, had his hands and legs cuffed, was forced into stress position, and was verbally abused and threatened with physical torture. He was interrogated about his work documenting human rights violations.

In at least two cases, the Home Ministry ignored its own findings that RAB was responsible for wrongful killings. According to Odhikar, a Dhaka-based human rights organization, at least 1,600 people have been victims of extrajudicial killings since 2004. Before the Awami League came to power, its leaders had accused RAB of widespread extrajudicial killings; they now claim that all deaths occur during armed exchanges with criminals.

The military and police continue to employ torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment against suspects, violating both domestic and international law. Many deaths in custody are never investigated. According to Odhikar, at least 12 people died in custody due to police torture in 2011.

For the mass people of Bangladesh it is at least a hope that there are someone who has minimum anxiety on the issues where the days ended and no sign of rule of law but at the same time with the activities of the Manabadhikar Commission lead by the renowned Jurist and Human Rights activist in Bangladesh namely Dr. M. Mizanur Rahman the people are not only unhappy but frustrated also. After making some voice in Limon’s case who was a deliberate victim of RAB the Manabadhikar Commission did not at all open its mouth.

Though initially the so-called crossfire or encounter was appreciated by the people but ultimately the devils starts reflecting its infections and presently it has tuned into unpreventable sickness as in the criminal cases where the alleged accuseds made confessional statements alter it has been found that the same was made on fear of crossfire and by doing so the law enforcing agency sometimes hide the original criminals or the master minds.

In the recent past some grievous allegations are also made against the RAB like robbery (Chittagong Majar Case), kidnapping (Arresting civil dress), trapping (By placing arms or Iaba in the house of innocent), Shumon Case, Manju Case and finally killing on contract (Two youths in Kushtia Case) and then it is the administration who needs to investigate each and every crossfire or encounter killing by the RAB or Police. The Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that her Government has zero tolerance of extra judicial killing but the measures already taken or to be taken by her administration did not match as till date no judicial inquiry or investigation committee or body formed for inquiring into any of incidents claimed death in crossfire or encounter and then the question is whether Sheikh Hasina has no control over the administration or she does not believe what she says. The present government could not show their due responsibility in controlling or abolishing crimes in the society by making the Judiciary more independent and effective but they waste their time and brain in controlling some good thing like Grameen Bank or Dr. Muhammad Yunus not the corrupt persons involved in Padma Bridge or Share Market.

The legal position of so-called crossfire, encounter or extra judicial killings are very clear as Article 32 of the Constitution of the Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh provides that no person shall be deprived of life or personal liberty save in accordance with law. However, legalization of extra judicial executions has reduced such constitutional guarantees to mere inscriptions and in this regard the Manabadhikar Commission and the Judiciary or even the Parliament cannot escape or watching make their mouth shut.

RAB or Police have been doing their best for enforcing peace and law but that must be in due process of law otherwise there will be no system and in future the entire country will be in danger due to its own creation of justice by way of injustice which cannot be accepted in any way. The criminals or terrors are not doing criminal activities from their birth, their living and surroundings make them criminals and only the court of law can revealed the entire truth about the alleged offense as well as its root and then the extra judicial killing cannot be a solution at all.

Conclusion: Extra Judicial Killing in its form cannot be legalize in any way otherwise between the law enforcing agency and criminals there will be no difference and the terror activities claiming legality on the reason of being not getting justice in proper way. Now the RAB and Police of Bangladesh who are already criticized a much by the both national and international arenas should stop killing peoples in the name of crossfire or encounter.

An Article by

M M Nuruzzaman


Supreme Court of Bangladesh

Head of Lawyers Bangladesh

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