POST TIME: 22 May, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Rights activists decry killings in ‘shootouts’
Staff Reporter

Rights activists decry killings in ‘shootouts’

The recent killings of a number of purported drug peddlers in “shootouts” with law enforcement personnel have raised concerns among human right activists, who have urged the government to follow “legal procedures” in bringing them to book. According to reports in different media, at least 27 people were killed in “gunfights” with Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and police in the last few days. Both the police and RAB also confirmed that all those slain were involved in drug trafficking. Some of those killed have been named in drug cases at various police stations. Raising concerns about this spree of “shootouts” across the country in anti-narcotic drives, human rights activist Sultana Kamal yesterday asked that proper legal procedures be ensured for the drug peddlers.

“As citizens of Bangladesh, everyone has the right to have legal aid,” said Sultan while replying to a media query at a meet-the-press programme at Dhaka Reporters’ Unity (DRU).

The government has adopted a ‘zero tolerance’ policy against the drug traffickers, as part of which joint forces of the RAB and police launched massive anti-drug operations across the country from the beginning of May. Some 2,300 people have been arrested in connection with drug trafficking and drug abuse till May 15.

According to the rights body Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), which Sultana Kamal heads, a total of 102 people have been killed in police gunfights since the beginning of the year. “It is a matter of great concern that the extrajudicial killings are increasing rapidly in the country,” she observed.

In a press statement, ASK welcomed the government’s stringent steps to root out a serious menace like drugs, but said it needs to be very careful about the measures taken to implement its programme so that it does not in any way violate existing laws and human rights principles. “We want the law enforcement agencies to issue instructions accordingly,” it added. Earlier, on May 14, director-general Benazir Ahmed warned drug dealers, addicts and drug carriers, saying that RAB would deploy everything at its disposal to prevent drug abuse. Ahmed urged the illegal drug dealers to abandon their illegal trade, saying that the elite force has been carrying out anti-drug drives across the country since May 4.

Terming the menace of illegal drugs a national problem, Benazir said: “The drug menace will have to be uprooted. Lawyers also need to cooperate so that no drug dealer can get away through loopholes of the law.”

Meanwhile, on May 20, home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said at an awareness campaign that the ongoing anti-drug drive would continue as the situation had taken a turn for the worse.

Earlier on, on May 19, in reply to a question from the press in a programme in Dhaka, Khan told the reporters that these incidents of crossfire will be investigated and offenders will be brought to justice.