A new Amnesty International report, “Killed in Crossfire: Allegations of Extrajudicial Executions in Bangladesh in the Guise of a War on Drugs”, reveals how the Bangladeshi authorities have failed to investigate deaths of people allegedly killed in “gunfights.”
There are 466 people reportedly killed in 2018 alone under the guise of an anti-drugs campaign. Allegations of enforced disappearance and fabrication of evidence by the law enforcement agencies in these suspected extrajudicial executions are also revealed in the report.
The 466 suspected extrajudicial executions in 2018 marked a threefold increase compared against the previous year and the highest in a single year in decades.The ‘war on drugs’ has led to the death of at least one person per day.
“The Bangladeshi authorities must put an end to these killings immediately. The ‘anti-drugs’ operations have spread terror in some of the country’s poorest neighbourhoods, where people fear the slightest suspicion of being involved in drug abuse may lead to their loved ones being subjected to another alleged extrajudicial execution.” said Dinushika Dissanayake, Deputy South Asia Director at Amnesty International.
In all the cases investigated by Amnesty, the victims were first subjected to apparent enforced disappearances, lasting anywhere from one day to a month and a half, before their dead bodies were eventually discovered.
Instead of launching proper investigations into these killings, the authorities allegedly sought to fabricate evidence to support their “gunfights” or “crossfire” claims.
All the victims of the supposed “gunfights” appear to have been forcibly disappeared by the police and the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) prior to their deaths. When relatives sought information of their whereabouts, the authorities either denied they were in their custody or refused to say where they are.
“Wherever there has been involvement of the RAB it appears they have acted outside of the law, the victims were not arrested, let alone put on trial. Some were forcibly disappeared from their homes and their relatives only saw them next as bullet-riddled corpses in the morgue,” continued Dissanayake,
Bangladeshi officials have routinely claimed that the victims of apparent extrajudicial executions were caught up in a fire fight, where the suspects fired the first shot at the members of law enforcement agencies, forcing them to resort to lethal force.
Amnesty International spoke to supposed “witnesses” who said that they were involuntarily taken to the crime scene only after the killings had taken place.
“We did not see anything,” one such “witness” told Amnesty International. “They called and took me with them to the location around 5:30am and asked me to witness what they were taking from there. I only saw a motorbike and nothing else.”
At least five witnesses interviewed by Amnesty International have said that they were involuntarily taken to the spot after the incident. They said they could not refuse police requests to act as witnesses fearing harsh consequences. Security forces have taken signatures, names, phone numbers and personal details of the witnesses.
Amnesty International documented a total of seven cases of alleged extrajudicial executions by visiting the locations of the incidents as well as interviewing 40 people including families of the victims, “witnesses” whose statements were coerced by law enforcement agencies, people in the neighbourhood where the incidents happened, and human rights activists in Bangladesh. (Source: Amnesty International)