Disappearances, killings, kidnappings, violations galore

US HR Report
The latest US Human Rights report has marked the extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, kidnappings, political violence and repression on women as the major ‘obstacles’ to improve the condition of human rights (HR) in Bangladesh.Discrimination against marginalised groups, infringement of labour rights and poor working conditions also remained as major problems against HR, the country report on Human Rights 2012 released by US Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington DC on Friday.
Citing reports of media, local and international HR organisations, and NGOs, the US report said, at least 132 killings through mob justice, but local human rights organizations acknowledged that the number of reported cases probably represented only a fraction of the actual incidents. One prominent abuse case was that of Mamun Bhuiyan from Kaliganj, Gazipur, who died on May 29 after being beaten by rivals.
The report said at least 70 people had been killed by law enforcers extrajudicially in Bangladesh in 2012 while RAB was responsible for 40 of the deaths, while combined security units including RAB killed six others during different raids in the year, the US report said.
Quoting Odhikar, a Dhaka-based NGO, the report said: “Non-RAB law enforcement officials were responsible for 24 extrajudicial killings in 2012, down from 33 incidents in the previous year.” in 2012 while RAB was responsible for 40 of the deaths, while combined security units including RAB killed six others during different raids in the year, the US report said.
Quoting Odhikar, a Dhaka-based NGO, the report said: “Non-RAB law enforcement officials were responsible for 24 extrajudicial killings in 2012, down from 33 incidents in the previous year.”
Disappearances and kidnappings, some by security services such as RAB and the Criminal Investigative Department, continued during the year.
According to Odhikar, there were 24 disappearances, some of which were caused allegedly by the security personnel in the year compared to 30 in 2011. It claimed that RAB was involved in 10 of these disappearances while Ain O-Salish Kendro estimated there were 56 enforced disappearances in 2012. According to Ain O-Shalish Kendra (ASK), there were 101 deaths in custody in 2012 including 34 deaths in prisons. Some of the deaths were allegedly due to torture, the US report said.
Amid kidnappings and extrajudicial killings, political violence among rival parties and within some of the parties continued to aggravate the situation to the worst level.
“A total of 37 Awami League and six BNP activists were killed while 4,330 and 1,619 activists of the two major parties were injured during 382 and 146 internal conflicts respectively in 2012,” the US report said. According to Odhikar, 58 persons died in prison compared with 105 prison deaths in 2011. In a July 4 report on the trials of Bangladesh Rifles mutineers, Human Rights Watch (HRW) documented 47 cases of custodial death between 2009 and 2012, some due to torture or mistreatment.
The report also mentioned the gruesome killing of young tailor Biswajit Das in Dhaka by AL activists on December 9 last year. The victim was thought to be an opponent of the ruling AL.
However, police arrested 10 persons involved in the killing following national press coverage due to the brutal nature of the incident. Although the Constitution and law prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, security forces, including RAB and police, reportedly resorted to torture, physical and psychological abuse during arrests and interrogations, the report said. Security forces used threats, beatings, and electric shocks, the report said quoting local rights groups including Odhikar which said security forces had tortured at least 72 persons, killing seven of them in 2012. The government rarely charged, convicted, or punished those responsible, the report said. As in the previous year, the government did not take comprehensive measures to investigate and prosecute officials of the security force for their involvement in extra-judicial killings in 2012, the report said. The government neither released statistics on total killings by all security personnel nor took comprehensive measures to investigate cases, despite statements by high-ranking officials that the government would show ‘zero tolerance’ and fully investigate all extrajudicial killings by security forces, it said.
Conditions and systems in Bangladeshi prisons remained harsh and life threatening due to overcrowding, inadequate facilities, and lack of proper sanitation.
Human rights observers stated that these conditions contributed to custodial deaths. Odhikar documented death of 58 people in prison in 2012 compared to 105 prison deaths in the previous year. The US report also carried excerpts of a report of the New York-based Human Rights Watch which recorded 47 cases of custodial deaths while documenting an ongoing trial of Bangladesh Rifles mutineers. More than 3,500 troops of paramilitary BDR (now Border Guard Bangladesh) were being tried for their alleged involvement in a deadly mutiny mainly in the Dhaka headquarters in February 2009. Though the Bangladesh Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, the law permits relevant law enforcing authorities to arrest and detain persons suspected of criminal activities without an order from a magistrate or a warrant.
The law provides for an independent judiciary, but a longstanding temporary provision of the Constitution undermined full judicial independence in practice, the US report said.
The report criticised judicial system as according to the provision, the executive branch is in charge of the lower courts, judicial appointments, and compensation for judicial officials in Bangladesh. Though the law gives individual the right to a fair trial, the judiciary cannot always protect this right due to corruption and weak human and institutional capacities.
While political affiliation was sometimes a factor in the arrest and prosecution of members of the opposition parties, no person was prosecuted solely for political reasons.
The report said marginalised groups, particularly Rohingya refugees, indigenous people, and women, suffered from unequal treatment and in some instances violence during the year.
Workers continued to face difficulties in forming unions and suffered from poor safety conditions in factories, highlighted by a factory fire in Dhaka on November 24, when more than 100 workers perished. During the year there were 805 reported incidents of rape against women and girls, including 299 women and 33 victims whose age could not be ascertained. According to human rights monitors, the actual number of rape cases was higher because many rape victims did not report the incidents due to social stigma or fear of further harassment, the report said.
It further said that the communal attacks occurred on September 29 and 30 against more than 100 Buddhist homes, temples, and monasteries in the Cox’s Bazar district. Police had arrested 284 persons in connection with the violence. On November 8, the MHA released the report of its official investigative body on the attacks, which stated that the violence was planned at least 10 days in advance, implicated 205 persons, and cited local law enforcement’s failure to act promptly and swiftly.

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