London/Dhaka, May 24 (bdnews24.com)—Amnesty International has blasted Bangladesh for its ‘failure’ to live up to the pledge to end extrajudicial killings.
In its annual report, the global human rights group blamed the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) for such incidents as it recorded ’54 unlawful killings’ by the elite anti-crime agency in 2011.
“Extrajudicial executions continued despite a government pledge to end them,” the Amnesty International Report 2012 says.
The London-based group says the government has failed to ‘credibly’ investigate those killings and the responsible have not been brought to justice.
It says the RAB has allegedly killed more than 700 people since its formation in 2004.
“RAB injured or tortured scores more. In many cases, family members told Amnesty International that victims died after being arrested by RAB and not in an encounter as RAB claimed. The authorities failed to investigate these incidents credibly,” the report says.
It highlighted the case of Limon Hossain, 16, who was shot in the leg by RAB officers in Jhalakathi on March 23 last year.
It says RAB officials alleged that he was a member of a criminal gang and that he was injured when RAB officers returned fire after the gang shot at them but Limon said he was alone, bringing cattle home, when RAB personnel arrested and shot him.
The conclusions of a separate government inquiry – never made public – reportedly confirmed his claim, and police charged Limon with trying to kill RAB officers, it says.
Amnesty International’s researcher Abbas Faiz criticised the government for its indifference to curb the incidents of human rights violation.
“We are worried about the human rights situation in Bangladesh. The issue of the disappearance of BNP leader M Ilias Ali has not been included in the report as this is a very recent incident. But the question has arisen: is it a new tactic in Bangladesh,” he tells bdnews24.com’s London correspondent Nahas Pasha.
Faiz blamed both the ruling Awami League and the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) for the present human rights condition.
“They forget their pledge to improve the human rights condition after they assume office. Before election, the Awami League had said it would stop crossfire killings. But allegations have it that more than 50 people were killed by RAB last year,” he said.
War crimes trial
Amnesty is apparently at ease with the amended Rules of Procedure involving the trial of crimes against humanity committed during Bangladesh’s Liberation War in 1971, but raised the issue of the right to challenge the jurisdiction of the tribunal.
“Its amended Rules of Procedure provided for bail, presumption of innocence before guilt is proven, and measures to ensure the protection of witnesses and victims. However, a constitutional ban on the right to challenge the jurisdiction of the Tribunal remained in force,” the report says.
Matiur Rahman Nizami, Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mojaheed, Muhammad Kamaruzzaman, Abdul Quader Molla and Delwar Hossain Sayedee from Jamaat-e-Islami, and Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and Abdul Alim from the BNP, were indicted for war crimes.
All but Alim, who was released on bail, remained detained. Five of the detainees were in custody for more than 18 months without any charges being brought against them, the Amnesty report pointed out.
Sayedee was formally charged in October for allegedly assisting the Pakistani army to commit genocide; kill, torture and rape unarmed civilians; torch houses of local Hindus; and force Hindus to convert to Islam.
Rights of indigenous people
The international rights body also points out that the government had ‘failed’ to secure the ‘right to livelihood and land’ of the indigenous residents of the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
The report attributes the failure to the government’s inability to prevent confiscation of land owned by the indigenous people by Bengali settlers.
“This led to violent clashes between the two communities, ending in loss of property and, at times, loss of lives.”
According to the report, the Bengali settlers usually entered indigenous peoples’ land and appropriated it for agricultural use.
The report also quotes indigenous residents telling Amnesty International delegates visiting the area in March that ‘Bengali settlers, emboldened by the army’s tolerance of their actions, had frequently set fire to Indigenous homes, usually in clear sight of soldiers or other law enforcement personnel, without being stopped.’
Around the same time, residents from Rangamati’s Langadu told Amnesty International that “local officials and soldiers from the local Border Guard Bangladesh unit failed to prevent an imminent attack by Bengali settlers against them in Rangipara village.”
“They said that soldiers stood by while the settlers torched their homes on 17 February,” the report adds.