State of human rights alarming | The Daily Star
12:01 AM, January 01, 2015 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:53 AM, March 08, 2015

State of human rights alarming

State of human rights alarming

'Crossfires', enforced disappearances saw rise last year, says rights body ASK

The year 2014 was alarming for the country's overall human rights situation despite progress in some areas, says an annual report by rights body Ain O Salish Kendra.

ASK launched the report titled “Human Rights Situation in Bangladesh 2014: Analysis of Ain O Salish Kendra” on the eve of the New Year at a press briefing in the capital's Dhaka Reporters Unity.

“How many people with hands on their chest can say that they are living a peaceful life?” ASK Executive Director Sultana Kamal said while presenting the report to the media.

Alongside enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings, deaths in police custody, communal and gender-based violence, and harassment and killing of journalists continued last year, the report notes.

Throughout 2014, law enforcement agencies allegedly abducted 88 people; 42 of them never returned while bodies of 23 were found later.

The report demonstrates that instances of enforced disappearance were higher last year than the previous two years, the numbers being 53 in 2013 and 56 in 2012.

According to the report, families of the victims mostly pointed fingers at Rab and detectives for these crimes. Serious allegations against Rab had been raised after bodies of seven people were found in Narayanganj in April.

Answering to a query about whether Rab should be disbanded for its alleged criminal activities, Sultana Kamal said ASK never wanted Rab to be disbanded.

“We've never demanded Rab be disbanded. There are instances of creating elite forces in other countries amid deteriorating law and order situation. Rab was formed within a policy. We've raised questions about this force whenever it crossed the limit,” she said.

Whenever a political party assumes power, it uses law enforcement agencies for their own purposes, turning state agencies into “government agencies”, she said.

Like in previous years, people fell victim to “crossfire”, another crime frequently committed by law enforcers that violates people's right to justice.

In 2014, as many as 128 people died in “crossfire” and “gunfight” between law enforcers and alleged "criminals", while the number was 72 in 2013. Custodial torture claimed the lives of at least 60 people, according to the report.

ASK also singled out a new trend of rights violation by law enforcers last year, which was shooting in the leg of an “accused”. Instances of this trend were evident especially in Jessore, Satkhira and Dhaka.

The ASK report says 147 people were killed in 664 political clashes while 34 died and 2,206 got injured in 171 infightings within the ruling Awami League last year.

The report also draws attention to persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, women and journalists.

As many as 761 houses of Hindu communities were vandalised and torched. Criminals also vandalised and set fire to 193 of their business places and 247 idols and temples.

In 2014, 707 women were raped. Of them, 68 were killed later and 13 committed suicide. Besides, 146 women fell victim to sexual harassment. Of them, 14 committed suicide and seven were killed for demanding the perpetrators' trial.

ASK also received numerous complaints of attack on indigenous communities in the hilly region. Most of these attacks were carried out by Bangalee settlers in a bid to grab lands owned by these communities. Allegations of torture on indigenous women by Bangalees were also rife.

Journalists were harassed across the country in at least 239 incidents, which included the murder of two journalists, last year.

33 Bangladeshis were killed by the Indian Border Security Force along the border, claims the report.

The report, however, has welcomed the six verdicts which were delivered in war crimes cases by the two International Crimes Tribunals last year despite slow progress of the trials.

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