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From Our Member Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), Bangladesh – Anti-drug Drive Kills 119 in ‘Gunfights’

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Anti-drug Drive Kills 119 in ‘Gunfights’

ASK Expresses Grave Concern

[31 May, Dhaka] In line with government’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy, the joint force of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and Police is carrying out an ‘anti-drug’ drive all over the country. In this drive, within 15 days, 119 people succumbed to death due to the so called ‘gunfights’ with the police and RAB, and thousands of people were arrested. They include drug dealers, drug peddlers, abusers and those who are involved with any kind of drug dealings as claimed by the police forces. Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) expresses its deep concern because of this unprecedented incidents of so many deaths in the so called ‘gunfights’ with the police and RAB forces.

ASK always raises its voice against any kind of abuse, torture and ‘extra-judicial killings’. Since the commencement of this anti-drug crackdown, ASK through press statements commended the government’s stringent position against this gruesome epidemic of drug abuse and smuggling. However, ASK always stresses on the necessity to maintain rule of law and legal procedures while implementing the campaign. ASK has expressed its demand that the government’s various measures should not violate existing laws and human rights principles and the law enforcing agencies should also be given the directives accordingly. But with utter disappointments, ASK observes that the government is showing no respect to existing laws and human rights principles in carrying out its anti-drug campaign. Government is repeatedly saying that the deaths are occurring due to ‘gunfights’, while media reports and narratives from the families of the deceased are portraying different scenario. In the media, already there are accusations against the police and RAB personnel that they are accepting money in exchange for impunity from deaths in ‘gunfights’. It is reported that in one case, the captured person was killed in the ‘gunfight’ even after his family paid off the police personnel. We come to know that the operation is carrying out according to the lists prepared by various intelligence agencies of the government. We are worried about the process, in which the drive is being carried out as well as about the accuracy of the list. After the death of Teknaf Paurashava Ward Commissioner Ekramul Haque in a ‘gunfight’, it is now discovered that, he was not involved in any drug business and dealings.

We like to remind the government that each person has the right to life and to receive due process of law and justice. These are his constitutional rights and all international human rights instruments acknowledge them. State cannot take away those rights or ransack them. Government must take initiatives and measures to tackle any social disorder and eradicate crimes. But it has to be in line with due process of law. An individual has to be designated as a criminal only after completion of the legal proceedings in the Court and he should be awarded punishments according to the existing law of the country. Otherwise, there will be disruption in the rule of law in society and severe violations of human rights will occur. The overall judicial process of the country will be under question, which is not desirable in a democratic and civilized society. It is the failure of the government if there is any limitation or omission in the existing laws and judicial process of the country. Government has to undertake immediate steps to overcome those limitations, ‘extra-judicial’ killings cannot be the answer to the lapses in existing laws and system.

National and international human rights organisations are expressing their serious concerns for long time against this kind of extra-judicial killings. United Nations Human Rights Committee in 2017, following a review of political and civil rights situation in the country forwarded their recommendations to the government to take effective measures to stop extra-judicial killings. Recently, under the UPR (Universal Periodic Review) process at the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, various member states, during the review of overall human rights situation in the country, give recommendations for proper investigation of incidents of extra-judicial killings and to ensure the due process of law. We are strongly demanding that the government pay due respect to the principles of human rights, constitutional rights of the citizens and the above mentioned recommendations forwarded to  the  government at the United Nations.

We are asking the government to undertake a comprehensive action plan incorporating both short-term and long-term measures to root out drug abuse and smuggling from the society. We would like to warn the government that the current campaign might appear as a success in the short term, but, in fact, it not only violates citizens’ right to life, in the longer term it creates space for larger violations of human rights in the society.