Some within AL govt let it go on | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 10, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, September 10, 2011

Extrajudicial Killings

Some within AL govt let it go on

LGRD and Cooperatives Minister Syed Ashraful Islam had told the US ambassador that some of his colleagues “did not want to stop extra-judicial killings by law enforcement agencies,” said a leaked US diplomatic dispatch.
Ashraf, also Awami League general secretary, made the comment on June 18, 2009 during a discussion with US ambassador James F Moriarty on his government's measures to uphold human rights.
Extra-judicial killings by law enforcement agencies including Rab were on the rise at that time, said the dispatch Moriarty sent to Washington.
Such opposition from some AL leaders to stop extra-judicial killings goes against the ruling party's electoral pledge to put an end to such killings by law enforcement agencies.
According to another leaked diplomatic cable sent to Washington in 2005, the US embassy in Dhaka expressed concern over the rise in extra-judicial killings.
The cable said Rab, formed in June 2004 with approximately 70 percent military and 30 percent police personnel, started reporting deaths of people in "crossfire" in its custody from the first month of its inception.
The US embassy wrote that with almost no variation, the explanatory press statement from Rab asserted that “a detained suspect died in an ensuing exchange of gunfire after the suspect led Rab to an area containing an arms cache or the hideout of comrades.” Regular police units and two smaller police units -- the Cheetah and the Cobra -- began reporting similar incidents.
"Although Rab accounts for fewer than half the crossfire, it retains pre-eminent popular support for spearheading what is seen as an effective strategy against lawlessness. Based on October-January figures, Bangladesh's 2005 crossfire tally could exceed 500," the embassy mentioned.
The cable said from the outset of Rab's rampage, senior ministers had made little effort to conceal their satisfaction with crossfire.
Even the then law minister Moudud Ahmed, the government's legal adviser, stressed to "us that the victims are all terrorists and criminals, and that Bangladeshis welcome Rab's actions,” read the dispatch.
The cable said the then state minister for home and Rab boss Lutfozzaman Babar told a US embassy official, "Let us not discuss it. The people are happy and even the judges are happy about it."
The cable said: "Babar said that he gets hundreds of calls from people blessing him after each crossfire and judges encourage him to continue the good work."
The state minister justified Rab as a short-term tactic until law enforcement agencies were streamlined and went through a long-term reform, the cable said.
The dispatch sent to Washington in 2005 said Rab is perceived as making a real dent against crime. Politically, Rab was easily the BNP-led government's most popular initiative in its three years in office.
“There seems little doubt that crossfire killings are sanctioned and directed by the government. Crossfire existed before Rab, but it was only with Rab's debut, in June 2004, that the numbers jumped and spread to the rest of the police,” the cable said.
“At this point, however, it appears that a BNP or AL affiliation of a crossfire victim is largely coincidental and reflects only the pervasive criminality of Bangladeshi politics.”
It is interesting, though, that few if any of Rab's crossfire victims include people linked to Jamaat-e-Islami or its violent student front, the cable said.
"Rab could become more politicised since its creators and bosses are Home Minister of State Babar, a BNP MP with alleged Islamist sympathies, and Home Secretary Omar Farooq, who has long-standing Jamaat Islami associations," the embassy commented in the dispatch in 2005.
"As the run-up to the general election expected in early 2007 becomes more confrontational and the BNP pulls out all the stops to win another term, it is easy to imagine Rab playing a more partisan, and covert, political role," said the embassy.

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