Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Constitution & Court ruling, in spite of…!

By Jahangir Alam Akash, Another two more suspected criminals were killed by extra judicial killings in Bangladesh. Two suspected criminals were killed in separate ‘crossfire’ with the members of Rapid Action Battalion and police in Faridpur and Kushtia on 6th September, 2009.With these two the total 71 peoples were killed in the same way in the regime of present government. Source: the New Age, 7th September, 2009.

But Home minister Sahara Khatun told that, ‘no extra-judicial killing was taking place during the swoop.’ This type of statement has encouraged to the law enforcers for extra judicial killings. Being a home minister her statement totally unlawful, unconstitutional. Why the ‘Awami intellectuals’ can’t raise any voice against extra judicial killings? We urges to all patriotic journalists, writers, columnists, professors, humanists please to do something for human rights individually or organizationally.

Sources said, Of them, Tofazzal Hossain alias Tapu Khan, a local Juba League leader, was killed in a gunfight with the RAB personnel at Hatkrishnapur under the Sadarpur upazila in Faridpur while Abdul Hannan alias Hana, 45, regional leader of the now defunct Gano Bahini, died in a gun encounter with policemen at Anandanagar under Mirpur upazila in Kushtia. RAB sources said a team of the RAB-8 challenged a group of people who were moving suspiciously in the Hatkrishnapur bazar area at about 3:30am as a part of their increased vigilance following the rise in the robbery incidents in Sadarpur upazila recently.

The suspected group members sharply took shelter inside a nearby primary school and fired bullets on the RAB members forcing the lawmen to retaliate triggering a gun-battle for about half-an-hour. Later, the RAB personnel kept the school under their cordon till the dawn. The sources claimed, Sadarpur upazila nirbahi officer Khandaker Oliur Rahman and officer-in-charge of the local police station Naresh Karmaker arrived at the scene at dawn. In their presence, the law-enforcers with the help of locals found out the body of the group leader Tofazzal from the spot and they seized a revolver, a shutter gun, one pipe gun and some bullets from there. Tofazzal was an organising secretary of the Sadapur upazila unit of Awami Juba League, an associate organisation of the ruling Awami League, and hailing from village Jatrabari under Krishnapur union of the upazila.

The body was sent to the Faridpur Medical College and Hospital morgue for autopsy. Tofazzal was wanted by Sadarpur police in more than a dozen criminal cases, including two murders, police said. In another incident, a police team from the Mirpur police station in Kushtia on secret information about a clandestine meeting of the Gano Bahini operatives went to raid a place near a brickfield at Anandanagar in the upazila at about 2:30am. Sensing the presence of the police team, the underground group operatives opened fire on the lawmen forcing them to fired back that triggered a gunfight for several minutes. Their leader Hannan was killed on the spot during exchange of fires, police claimed. Later, the law enforcers recovered a pipe gun and five bullets from the scene. The killed Hannan was hailing from village Ambarhia at Mirpur upazila and he was wanted by police in half-a-dozen criminal cases, including three murders. With the two, the number of people killed by the law enforcers in ‘crossfire’ stood at 71, after the Awami League-led alliance government assumed office in January 6, 2009.

The latest killings also marked continuation of the extrajudicial killing by the lawmen during the AL regime despite the government repeatedly told countrymen that they would put an end to such killing. Different national and international rights groups are raising their voice against the extrajudicial killing.

What said the home minister?

Home minister Sahara Khatun has said that the ongoing crackdown on outlaws and extremists in the southwest is based on a list prepared by the law-enforcement agencies. "The law-enforcers are carrying out the clampdown as the extremists and terrorists regrouped in the south-western region," the minister told reporters at the Secretariat. She claimed that no extra-judicial killing was taking place during the swoop. "Those who are getting killed are dying in gun battles with the police and RAB." "Will the law-enforcers take bullets trying to detain the extremists?" she snapped at reporters. "The outlaws, terrorists and militants should be nabbed and they (the law enforcers) will take any measure for that," the minister said.

Sources said, security has deteriorated in recent times in the region, which was a 'death valley' a few years back, with a number of murders taking place.

Eight people died in the alleged gunfights with police and RAB in last two weeks. Two people were killed on Sunday morning in Kushtia and Faridpur in so-called 'gun battles' with the police and RAB. Sahara hinted that another list was going to be prepared. "The people linked to the outlawed parties should be listed." "They are changing their strategies. The law enforcers will have to change theirs as well," the minister said. Human-rights NGO Odhikar said 19 people were killed in crossfire with RAB and police in August; most of them occurring in the southwestern region. Ten of the victims were activists of outlawed parties. The human-rights organisations have long been asking the government to stop the killings terming them extra judicial. RAB said as many as 577 people were killed in 'crossfire' in 472 incidents until Aug 31 since the formation of the elite force on March 26, 2004. The High Court on June 29 asked the government to explain why killing without trial in so-called crossfire or encounter will not be declared illegal, and why departmental and criminal actions should not be taken against those who perpetrate such killings in custody and outside. The shooting incidents are commonly reported as 'crossfire' in the media, a term which has come to imply 'suspicious' or extra-judicial killings. Most recently, controversy was sparked when two polytechnic students were killed in RAB 'crossfire' in the capital in early June.

Former state minister for home Tanjim Ahmed had said the RAB had launched a departmental investigation into the death of the two students.

According to rights group Odhikar, 322 people were killed during the last two years of the caretaker government led by Fakhruddin Ahmed in "crossfire".

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina herself announced in February that the extrajudicial killings perpetrated during the tenure of the military-installed interim government would be investigated. International and local rights groups, including Amnesty International, US-based Human Rights Watch, Transparency International, Bangladesh and Odhikar, over past decades have frequently expressed concern over the rate of extra-judicial killings in the country. HRW, in May, in a damning report, suggested 'elite' security forces such as Rapid Action Battalion and the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) be disbanded. Source: BD News

NHRC dysfunctional as body not reconstituted

The National Human Rights Commission has virtually ceased to exist as the government is yet to reconstitute the quasi-judicial body in line with the National Human Rights Commission Act enacted by the parliament on July 14.

‘We are uncertain about how to deal with the commission activities. There is practically no commission as the seven-member body now has only the chairman and no members,’ the commission chairman, Justice Amirul Kabir Chowdhury, told. Source: the New Age, 7th September, 2009

Formed in November 2008 under the National Human Rights Commission Ordinance promulgated by the military-controlled interim government on December 23, 2007, the commission failed to create any impact on national life although a number of allegations on rights violation were lodged.

Shortage of manpower and logistics was blamed for the state of inertia at the time. The Awami League-led government enacted the new act on July 14, 2009 bringing about some major changes in the ordinance, especially in the process of appointment of commission members, lessening their age limit and increasing the number of commissioners to six with a provision of having a regular member and five others as volunteers.These changes frustrated the existing members.

One of the two permanent members has already crossed the age limit of 70 years in keeping with the amended law. The earlier age limit of a commission member was 72. Munira Khan, who is now over 70 years old, verbally informed the chairman of the commission that she did not qualify to remain a member of the commission in keeping with the new law, the chairman told. Munira said the government did not consult with the commission on the age limit when the new law was enacted.

‘Being informed, I thought it would not be ethical to be with the commission from the day President Zillur Rahman gave his consent to the law on July 14,’ she said. The other member, Niru Kumar Chakma, who was on lien from Dhaka University, has got back to his earlier job as professor of geography and environment in the university. In a letter to the chairman on July 15, Niru said he would not be able to serve as a commissioner as he returned to Dhaka University. The commission has now only one official to work as secretary to the commission and five other members on the staff deputed from the Access to Justice Project funded by the United Nations Development Programme. The commission needs a large number of members on the staff to run its activities across the country as prescribed in the law, the chairman said, adding the government must provide the commission with adequate staff, budget and logistics to run it independently. The commission has started tottering since it came into being during the fag end of the two-year tenure of the interim administration. Even about two months inside the enactment of the new law, the government is yet to initiate any process to reconstitute the commission with the appointment of six members. The law stipulates a seven-member selection committee should be formed headed by the parliament speaker to recommend names to the president for appointment of the commission chairman and members. He will be aided by the law and the home minister, the law commission chairman and the cabinet secretary. Two lawmakers one each from the treasury and opposition benches will also be members on the selection committee. The commission is now housed in a rented floor of a four-storey building at Lalmatia.


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