Webinar Report on “Execution at Will? Extrajudicial Killings by State Actors in Bangladesh”

15 March 2022
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Extrajudicial killing is a type of arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life that constitutes a serious breach of human rights. Over the previous decade, this has been a frequent occurrence in Bangladesh. Understanding the terrible outcome of this violent practice, Centre for Governance Studies has conducted a research study where it analyzed the cases of Extrajudicial Killings took place between January, 2019 to December, 2021. In order to highlight this findings of the study, the Center for Governance Studies organized a webinar, titled “Executions at Will? Extrajudicial Killings by State Actors in Bangladesh"; on Saturday 12th March, 2022 at 10.00 A.M.

The keynote speaker of the webinar was the principal in vestigator of the study Professor Dr. Ali Riaz, Distinguished Professor of political science at Illinois State University, USA, and a member of the Centre for Governance Studies advisory board. Other participants of the webinar included DrShahdeen Malik, Senior Advocate, Bangladesh Supreme Court, Barrister ManzoorHasan, Executive Director, Centre for Peace and Justice, BRAC University, and Advocate Alena Khan, Chairperson and CEO, Bangladesh Human Rights Foundation (BHRF). 

The program was presided over by Dr. Manjur Ahmed Chowdhury, Chairman of Centre for Governance Studies and conducted by CGS Executive Director Zillur Rahman.

Ali Riaz in his presentation, he cited various facts and figures uncovered in the research conducted by CGS, where there is proof that the government has at various times either tried to deny or justify the acts of extrajudicial killing in Bangladesh. He demonstrated that these kinds of acts fall under the definition of extrajudicial killing according to several international standards. He also demonstrated that extrajudicial killings are not new in Bangladesh, with case history dating back to 1972. 

From 2000 to 2013, extrajudicial killings don’t have any specific patterns. However, from 2018 onwards, extrajudicial killings became more common as the government stepped up its anti-narcotics operation. Dr. Ali also demonstrated the current pattern of increase in extrajudicial killing right before the national election.

The study shows that most acts of extrajudicial killings were covered up in the media using the excuse of gunfights with the police, the Detective Bureau, or RAB. Statistics also show that there were an average of one extrajudicial killing every day in certain months. The most extrajudicial killings were reported from the Cox’s Bazar region. 

Ali Riaz concluded by giving recommendations on how to alleviate the matter. His recommendations included that all acts of extrajudicial killings need to be investigated and brought under the purview of the law. The government needs to stop justifying extrajudicial killings. The law enforcement agencies need to be made accountable for their actions. And finally, the national commission for human rights needs to be reformed and empowered to fulfil its role and protect citizens’ rights. 

Advocate Alena Khan stated that the government claims a magistrate keeps the investigation report behind the “gunfights”. However, these reports are never published for the public to see. She argued that extrajudicial killings exist due to the lack of effectiveness of the legal system. The legal system needs to be reformed and made more capable of providing justice, so people don’t get frustrated enough to support extrajudicial killing. She also stated that besides political motivations, extrajudicial killings are also related to corruption in the police force. There is no monitoring and no accountability on law enforcement agencies. She concluded by saying that the national human rights commission is failing to investigate extrajudicial killings and needs to be reformed from scratch. She also suggested that the statistics presented in the CGS study could be used to form a writ petition against extrajudicial killings. 

Dr. Shahdeen Malik stated that the constitution has certain provisions that allow the government to provide indemnity to anyone in the name of national security. Even though civil society members have been advocating for stopping extrajudicial killings, there hasn’t been any effect since the government has been in favor of it. However, the number of extrajudicial killings has decreased significantly after the USA sanctions against members of law enforcement. He fears that these kinds of sanctions might increase if the law enforcement agencies keep conducting such extrajudicial killings. Such actions might have a very negative effect on the economic situation of Bangladesh.  

Barrister ManzoorHasan stated the need to continue the research on extrajudicial killing by CGS. Reflecting on Dr. Ali Riaz’s points, he said that the culture of impunity is not only in Bangladesh but also a global issue. The colonial laws and customs we inherited have not been fully reformed yet. The institutions in our system like the police, prosecution, etc. may not have the capacity to fulfil their function. Modernization is required to increase their capacity. If the institutions are not functioning properly, due process cannot exist. Barrister Manzoor also stated that the police work under a lot of risk. Since they think the legal system cannot protect them, there is an attitude that the best course of action is to kill the criminals. 

He stated that we require an independent prosecution service to make the legal system more efficient. Unless we can make the law enforcement agencies efficient and modernized, we cannot eliminate extrajudicial killings. Right now, accountability in the legal system is quite low. However, the parliament is not discussing this issue at all. All these factors have created a vicious cycle of violence that is propagating extrajudicial killing. There is also a dangerous trend of promoting extrajudicial killing as an alternative to the justice system. 

He concluded by saying that we need to bring due process back and hold those who are committing extrajudicial killing accountable. It is also important for those who break the law to be punished and restore faith back in the legal system. 

Dr. Manjur Ahmed Chowdhury concluded the sessions by stating that the pattern which shows a rise in extrajudicial killings before the national election is indicative of the culture of fear and oppression the people are facing. According to him, there are three dark elements in our society: The loss of freedom of speech by laws such as the DSA, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings. These three dark elements have formed an evil force we must fight against. 

Full Webinar link (Youtube):https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36kB7eK6n5k


  • 25 Aug 2022, 09:17 PM

    It's really pity! Those who laid their lives in the liberation war 50 years ago had they ever dreamt of a Bangladesh where webinars need to be held by CGS to discuss forced disappearance, extrajudicial killing, unending nightmare of digital security act, etc.?