Extrajudicial killings: The truth behind ‘gunfight’ narratives

Prothom Alo 

The truth behind ‘gunfight’ narratives

As details of the retired major Sinha Md Rashed Khan killing unfold, the truth behind extrajudicial killings is being revealed. This incident has created shock and fear among the people. Retired army officers, at a press conference, have demanded that extrajudicial killings be ended for once and for all. This is a public demand. If the law and the constitution are to be upheld, this demand cannot be ignored.

According to Prothom Alo reports, from 4 May 2018 onwards, in Cox’s Bazar alone 287 persons were killed in so-called gunfights during the anti-drug drive. Of these, 174 were shot dead in ‘encounters’ with the police, 62 with the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and 51 with the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). And of these, 161 were killed in ‘gunfights’ with the Teknaf police. The suspended officer-in-charge (OC) of Teknaf police station, Pradeep Kumar Das, was involved in most of these ‘gunfights’, it is alleged. It is perturbing that any person or force be involved in so many killings in one particular area. Such incidents are taking place all over the country, backed by the government’s undeclared impunity.

A review of the past 20 years’ record of extrajudicial killings reveal that this has basically become a policy of the government. If not, how can someone be awarded after carrying out a series of such killings? And yet crime has not lessened. On the contrary, it spreading out and growing fresh roots.

Nothing good can emerge outside of the law and judicial procedures. Those who had wanted ‘good crossfire’, are now realising this. The experience of the Philippines and some Latin American countries indicates that crime has not reduced by trying to control drugs or crime in this manner. In fact, this encourages the law enforcement agencies to violate the law and increases their propensity towards crime.

Killing is killing, whether it be called gunfight, crossfire or extrajudicial killing. It is a violation of the law.

Concerning the Cox’s Bazar incident, the police have said that this will happen no more. It should be clarified whether this applies to one particular force or to everyone.

All deaths are equal. The government has taken responsible action following the countrywide reaction to the killing of retired major Sinha Md Rashed Khan. Important quarters within the country are also alert about the matter of justice to be carried out in this case.

In the meantime, innumerable suffering families like that of the killed Teknaf councilor and Jubo League leader Ekramul, continue bearing the pain and suffering of losing their dear ones with no justice. It is not acceptable that there will only be justice in the case of important people and fictional narratives in the case of the common man.

Killing is killing, whether it be called gunfight, crossfire or extrajudicial killing. It is a violation of the law. When members of the law enforcement agencies themselves become the judges and the implementers of the law, then the law, justice and human rights are all ignored. Starting from ‘Operation Clean Heart’ to the ‘War against Drugs’, no matter what these drives are called, unlawful killing creates unrest in the state and disables the arm of the law.

The seven murders of Narayanganj and the recent killing of retired major Sinha Md Rashed Khan are just instances of such darks events. In wake of the outpouring of public outrage and shock following Sinha’s killing, the government should take necessary initiative to bring an end to such actions by the law enforcement. This is important for the reputation of these forces too.

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