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OP-ED: Extra-judicial killings: Is there an end in sight?

  • Published at 09:32 pm September 1st, 2020
gavel gun justice killings

These killings disrespect our justice system

All human rights organizations define extra-judicial killings as a deprivation of life unjust or unconstitutional, and clearly a homicide. A retired major of Bangladesh was killed by police -- 16 law enforcement officials were suspended for this reason and an investigation committee was introduced. 

According to two Dhaka Tribune reports, two suspected criminals were killed in Jessore and Sylhet in a different gunfight on August 3, 2020. Here we see two different scenarios, but for the first scenario, an investigation committee was introduced, and the government took immediate action because he was an army person. 

But is there any action that will be taken for other incidents? Maybe not, because nowadays, it is a common scenario that almost every day people are being subjected to extra-judicial killings. According to statistics by Odhikar, 4,002 suspected were killed by different law enforcement agencies from 2000 to June 2020. 

Last year it was 391, and up to June this year it was 158. What will it be by the end of the year? The constitution protects the rights of every citizen. Extra-judicial killings violate our rights, and it is contradictory to the constitution. Extra-judicial killings are also a complete violation of natural justice. 

Because everyone has the right to a trial before a court, and before the sentence, an accused will be treated as innocent. Article 27 of the constitution says that everyone is equal before the law. Is our government able to protect our rights? Article 31 of the constitution states: “To enjoy the protection of the law, and to be treated in accordance with the law ... is the inalienable right of every citizen, wherever he may be, and of every other person for the time being within Bangladesh, and in particular no action detrimental to the life, liberty, body, reputation, or property of any person shall be taken except in accordance with the law.” 

According to Article 32 of the constitution: “No person shall be deprived of life or personal liberty save in accordance with the law.” In the abovementioned articles, it is clearly indicated that the constitution ensures our right to protection of the law, and it will protect the right to life and personal liberty. 

Then the question arises: How will this be achieved? It will be done by law enforcement agencies. But when law enforcement agencies break the law, what can be done? As we see, none of the perpetrators get the punishment they deserve, and the reasons behind this are a lack of witnesses, improper investigations, and the excuse of self-defense. 

The fact is, every extra-judicial killing done in the name of “gunfight,” “encounters,” and “crossfire” are claimed by the perpetrators to be “self-defense.” According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights adopted in 1966, which was ratified by Bangladesh in 2000, “every human being has the inherent right to life,” and “this right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.” 

Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.” 

Extra-judicial killings are a complete violation of this article. Nonetheless, Bangladesh is a signatory of many other treaties that are related to human rights like ICESCR, CRC, etc. So law enforcement agencies have some duty with respect to these treaties. 

Then a question must be asked: Does Bangladesh breach its international obligations? Bangladesh is a democratic country, and it has a well-established judicial system. As a democratic country, the rule of law must be established. Because everyone has a right to a trial, and everyone has the right to life. 

Criminals should be punished by the court, not by law enforcement agencies. The practice of extra-judicial killings shows blatant disrespect to our courts, and creates bad impressions all over the world. It is high time we prevented extra-judicial killings, and upheld the rule of law. 

Kalyan Chakroborty is a student of law and a fellow of DLA PIPER UK.

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