At least one person a week died in 2011 at the hands of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) police unit in Bangladesh, Amnesty International said in a report released yesterday.
Despite a government pledge to end extrajudicial killings, law enforcement agents have not been adequately brought to justice for deaths or beatings, the London-based international human rights watchdog said in its annual State of the World’s Human Rights Report released yesterday.
“In many cases, family members told Amnesty that victims died after being arrested by the RAB and not in an encounter as the RAB claimed. The authorities failed to investigate these incidents credibly,” the report said in its Bangladesh chapter.
RAB officers allegedly killed at least 54 people in 2011, bringing the total number of people killed by the group since 2004, when the RAB was formed, to more than 700, the report said.
The report offers several examples, including a case in which a man, Limon Hossain, was shot in the leg by RAB officers who claimed he was a member of a criminal gang and that he was injured when RAB officers returned fire after the gang shot at them.
Hossain said he was alone, bringing cattle home, when RAB personnel arrested and shot him.
The conclusions of a separate government inquiry – never made public – reportedly confirmed his claim, but Hossain was charged with trying to kill the RAB officers.
In addition to the shootings, at least three people died in police custody last year, allegedly after being tortured. No charges have been filed, though the government announced that it would bring those responsible to justice.
The rights group also said the government has also failed to prevent confiscation of tribal peoples’ land by Bengali settlers in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
Tribal people told Amnesty delegates visiting the area in March that Bengali settlers, emboldened by the army’s tolerance of their actions, had set fire to tribal homes, usually in clear sight of soldiers or other law enforcement personnel, without being stopped.
One bright spot for Bangladesh could have been the new National Women Development Policy, a plan to provide medical treatment, legal assistance and counseling to abused women and children.
However, Amnesty reports that authorities failed to implement the plan and many female and young victims of violence were receiving no support from state institutions.
Overall, Amnesty’s report painted a grim portrait of rights abuses around the world.
“Failed leadership has gone global in the last year,” said Amnesty Interntional Secretary General Salil Shetty. "Governments must show legitimate leadership and reject injustice by protecting the powerless and restraining the powerful. It is time to put people before corporations and rights before profits."
Settlers burn Bangladesh village
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