The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has condemned the recent deaths of scores of people in so-called shootouts in Bangladesh.
As many as 136 alleged drug dealers have been killed in the ongoing anti-narcotics drive in the last 21 days. Most of them were killed in so-called shootouts involving Rab and police.
The CHRI in a statement yesterday reminded the government and the law enforcers in Bangladesh that they were accountable for the deaths.
Mentioning the condemnation expressed by the National Human Rights Commission and civil society organisations over the issue, the statement said it was of serious concern that the spate of killings, being described by many as extrajudicial, was seen by the government as the needed response in a “war” against drug crime without mention of the accountability for causing death.
Sanjoy Hazarika, CHRI's international director, called upon the government to ensure that each killing was properly investigated in a time-bound manner, and all those responsible for ordering and carrying out the killings were brought to book immediately.
Being tough on crime cannot be a licence for abuse of power or excess use of force, the statement said.
CHRI recognises the need to address drug trafficking but the police and political leadership must insist that all policing function within the law. “Without this, the rule of law itself is threatened,” it added.
Reportedly, thousands of suspected drug dealers have been arrested. The Bangladesh Police must guarantee that all the constitutional rights and legal safeguards of all arrested persons are upheld at every stage, in strict compliance with the 2003 High Court guidelines on arrest and detention [upheld by the Supreme Court], the statement said.
It is solely for the courts to decide whether they are innocent or guilty, the statement added.