According to a recent report by Amnesty International, 466 people were killed last year in the ongoing anti-drug campaign in Bangladesh—that is more than one dead per day. After investigation, the international human rights group found a number of serious anomalies between the official version of some of these deaths, compared to what witnesses saw and descriptions given by the victims’ families.
The report highlighted allegations of enforced disappearance and fabricating evidence by the law enforcement agencies in what Amnesty described as “suspected extrajudicial executions”. In interviews with Amnesty, supposed witnesses said that they were asked to provide fabricated statements by the police to support law enforcers’ version of the deaths. And also, that victims’ families alleged their loved ones were picked up by law enforcers, sometimes in plainclothes, days before news of them being killed in alleged gunfights had appeared.
Despite the fact that 466 such killings occurred last year, marking a threefold increase from a year earlier and the highest in a single year in decades, the authorities have consistently failed to investigate the deaths of people killed in these alleged “gunfights”, which is alarming. Hence why we must ask, is this the normal way of fighting a problem like drugs? To combat a menace like drugs, one must have a long-term plan in place, and the death of small-time carriers cannot eradicate the problem in the long run, particularly because none of the godfathers behind the drug trade has so far been apprehended.
That so many hundreds of people are continuing to be killed in alleged gunfights cannot be taken lightly. We call on the authorities to thoroughly investigate these cases instead of ignoring them as they have done in the past, taking into consideration that these are extremely serious human rights violations that are being alleged.