Friday, September 30, 2011

Bangladesh opposition comes heavily on delinquent anti-crime forces

SALEEM SAMAD

IN AN unprecedented public statement, the main Bangladeshi opposition demanded on Tuesday that the country's police and elite anti-crime force officers be barred from United Nations peacekeeping missions.

Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chairperson Khaleda Zia blamed the two law enforcement agencies for breach of human rights, including extrajudicial executions, illegal detention, custodial torture and kidnapping and disappearance of suspects.

Until August, Bangladesh was the largest contributor of peacekeepers in UN missions, with 2,076 police and 8,579 army personnel.

She also urged international organizations and foreign countries to decline providing training and arms supplies to Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and police forces, which she said would be used against the opposition.

New York-based Human Rights Watch last May urged Bangladesh to ban the controversial RAB for alleged extrajudicial executions and requested the United States and European Union members refrain for increasing the capacity of RAB, the government’s crime-fighting outfit.

Amnesty International in August called for a freeze on arms supplies to Bangladesh in a bid to stop the RAB and other security forces from using them for extra-legal execution of crime suspects.

The London-based rights group said the RAB has been implicated in the killing of at least 700 suspects since its inception in 2004 during the regime of now opposition leader Khaleda Zia.

At least 200 alleged RAB killings have occurred since January 2009 when the current Awami League government came to power, despite Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s pledge to end extrajudicial executions and claims by the authorities that no extrajudicial executions were carried out in the country in this period, said Amnesty International.

The former prime minister, Zia, warned the law enforcers not to act as “party goons” or they will have to face justice if her party is reelected in the general election planned in 2014.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes in Jihad, forced migration, good governance and elective democracy. He has recently returned from exile after living in Canada for six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com