ENFORCED disappearance seems to have become a preferred tool for some law enforcement agencies, to carry out extrajudicial killings, especially since such killings in the name of ‘encounter’, ‘gunfight’, ‘shootout’, etc—with bullets, in other words—drew widespread criticism and condemnation, at home and abroad, and also a series of rulings by the highest judiciary. In fact, it is none other than the chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission who articulated in public his suspicion that law enforcers might have adopted enforced disappearances as an alternative to extrajudicial killing by bullet or custodial torture. Not surprisingly, the Rapid Action Battalion, which has made extrajudicial killing by bullets its monopoly of a sort, is also the major perpetrator of enforced disappearances, according to statistics compiled by the rights organisations Odhikar and Ain O Salish Kendra, quoted in a report published in New Age on Monday. Suffice to say, the practice is not limited to the battalion alone; Odhikar claims that the detective branch of police is responsible for a fourth of all enforced disappearances between 2009 and 2012, i.e. in the first four years of the Awami League-led government’s tenure.
Yet, in its report to the Human Rights Council in February 2013, as part of the universal periodic review of human rights situation in Bangladesh, the government actually sought to defend the law enforcers, bemoaning that ‘in recent times, there has been a tendency to use the name of RAB and other in relation to cases of kidnapping/abduction.’ Albeit shocking, the government’s inclination to defending the battalion and other law enforcement agencies is hardly surprising. After all, while the ruling Awami League pledged in its election manifesto that ‘extrajudicial killing will be stopped’ and the government that it leads, in its early days, talked of ‘zero tolerance’ against extrajudicial killing, the incumbents have since first denied and then defended such killings by members of different law enforcement agencies. Moreover, they have persistently ignored widespread calls for independent inquiry into each instance of extrajudicial killing.
Meanwhile, key functionaries of the ruling alliance have relentlessly professed their commitment to the rule of law as members of the law enforcement agencies continued with extrajudicial killing, which, needless to say, undermines the very concept of the rule of law since it decrees that everyone is equal in the eyes of the law and that even the vilest criminals reserve the right to defend themselves in the court of law against the charge/s brought against them. Such obvious incongruities between what the incumbents say and do could very well have appeared as either their inability or their unwillingness to rein in the murderous law enforcers and thus contributed to the latter’s sense of impunity and, worse even, emboldened others to resort to extrajudicial actions.
Enforced disappearance, which has come to mark the tenure of the incumbents, in particular and extrajudicial killing in general have not only undermined the government’s credibility but also given rise to some unpleasant questions. In respect of enforced disappearances, there is suspicion of ‘political interference in the work of the detective branch.’ Hence, it is imperative that the government initiate inquiry into each incident of enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killing so that the perpetrators can be prosecuted and punished. Otherwise, it could be perceived as having sanctioned such extrajudicial actions by law enforcers.
Source: New Age Editorial