Hill Voice,  16 October 2019, Wednesday, Dhaka:  The Committee Against Torture (CAT) of the United Nations says, 429 people have been killed in alleged crossfire or gunfights involving, in most cases, law enforcers, in Bangladesh in recent months. A new report by the Human Rights Support Society said that at least 92 people had become victims of enforced disappearances last year. Of the victims, 38 were produced before the court after they went missing, 14 were found dead, 17 returned home and 23 are still missing.

The report further mentions a number of other human rights violations, including the killing of 429 people in alleged crossfire or gunfights involving, in most cases, law enforcers—and that seven people were reportedly tortured to death by the police, five were shot dead and 33 had died in their custody. Though the findings of this report are frightening enough on their own, the reality is that this is but one among several reports that, together, paint a disturbing picture.

Only a month ago, the UN’s Committee against Torture expressed concern with “information it received alleging the widespread and routine commission of torture and ill-treatment” that have been taking place in the country. It also stated its disappointment at the lack of investigation into cases of alleged rights violations.

Such allegations have now persisted for years, and so have the government denials. For years, we have heard the law enforcing agencies similarly denying having any connection to the incidents of rights violations, even when family members of the victims claimed to have directly witnessed their involvement.

Even if we are to give the benefit of the doubt to the agencies, the fact remains that it is the responsibility of the state to protect the rights of its citizens and investigate all allegations of violations to determine who are actually involved. Is there a clandestine group operating within the country that is doing this? Finding the answer to this question is also the state’s responsibility. More so for the credibility of the law enforcing agencies.

At a time when Bangladesh is being praised for its many achievements, the state of human rights in the country is tarnishing its image internationally. The government should recognise this and take urgent measures to address this crisis.

On the other, according to Kapaeeng Foundation’s report, from January-October 2019 alone, there have been 7 extra-judicial killings in the name of cross-fire in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Similarly, 4 persons have been subjected to victims of enforced disappearance by the plain cloth law-enforcement and security forces, among whom 2 persons have been freed after keeping couple of days in the detention in unknown places, but 2 persons remain missing till to-date.

Source: The Daily Star, September 30, 2019 and Kapaeeng Foundation’s info-sharing report, October 16, 2019.