ucanews.com reporter, DhakaPublished: July 01, 2016 10:26 AM GMT
Members of the Rapid Action Battalion, a special police force patrols Dhaka in this file photo. Church officials have denounced a spate of extrajudicial killings by law enforcers this year. (ucanews.com photo by Stephan Uttom)
Catholic Church officials have denounced a spate of extrajudicial killings at the hands of Bangladeshi law enforcement agencies as "unacceptable," terming it "a serious crime" that violates human rights.
A total of 79 people were killed in so-called "shootouts" or in police custody in six months of the year, says a report from the Dhaka-based human rights group Ain-o-Salish Kendra published on June 30.
In addition, plainclothes policemen also picked up at least 50 people and among them six were later found dead, the report said.
Analysts say that the law enforcers are going for "quick solutions" over intense pressure at home and abroad over series of targeted killings in the country allegedly by Islamic militants in recent times.
"This so-called shootouts are a serious crime by the law enforcers. No matter how hardened a criminal is, the person has the right to get legal protection and prosecution," said Theophil Nokrek, secretary of the Bangladesh Catholic bishops' Justice and Peace Commission.
"Police say they shoot in self-defense but we have never seen any policeman die in crossfire. So, this is just firing, an illegal act and absolutely unacceptable," Nokrek said.
Extrajudicial killing is a "blatant disrespect of law and the justice system," said Father Albert T. Rozario, a Supreme Court lawyer.
"Everyone is equal in the eyes of the law and deserves the right to legal protection. So, there is no legal basis for such killings and it's a gross violation of human rights," said Father Rozario, who is also the parish priest of St. Joseph's Church in Savar, near Dhaka.
"The most heartening matter is sometimes innocent people become victims of such killings," he said.
The priest said that these so called shootouts is prompted by a surge in militancy and fears that the accused might secure bail in court and commit crimes again.
"There are short-term results, but it undermines the judicial system. Any punishment for crimes should come through legal action," he said.
Extrajudicial killing is a "very common affair" for Bangladeshi law enforcement agencies although there is no official data to back such claims. However, Dhaka-based rights group Odhikar claims there were a total of 2,685 extrajudicial killings by law enforcers from January 2001 to March this year.
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