Human rights: What prevents formation of independent probe body?

The figures that Manabadhikar Shongskriti Foundation (MSF) and the Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) have presented on the violation of human rights is concerning. It is evident that the real scenario of the human rights is nowhere near the condition that Bangladesh highlighted at the various international platforms including the United Nations.

According to the Manabadhikar Shongskriti Foundation, 15 died in 22 incidents of crossfire in 2022 while seven people died in 15 incidents of crossfire in 2023, and that means extra-judicial killings slightly dropped. But this news does not give us comfort when we see deaths in jail custody nearly doubled last year. According to the Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) 65 people died in jail custody in 2022, and the toll rose to 105 in 2023. Besides, 13 people died in police custody, two in Rapid Action Battalions’ (RAB) custody and three citizens died in Detective Branch’s (DB) custody.

This two organisations working on human rights presented the scenario of human rights violations in 2023 at a press conference on 31 December. According to MSF, deaths in jail custody almost doubled from 93 in 2022 to 162 in 2023. Prison authorities said those who died were taken to hospitals for medical treatment after they fell sick in jail.

We think that it is rational that the ASK has demanded forming a neutral commission to investigate into the allegation of extra-judicial killings.

While presenting the scenario of the human rights, former advisor to caretaker government and MSF president Sultana Kamal said those who advocate for human rights find themselves in a hostile environment. The rights defenders are being placed in confrontation with the state.

The government cannot violate the fundamental rights of citizens that are guaranteed by the constitution. Again, the government must abide by the rights recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN. The government made many promises at the UN meeting on human rights in Geneva several months ago, but it was apparently not implemented at all. Improvement of human rights is indispensable along with the economic development of the country.

The issue of human rights cannot an issue of political debate. It is the responsibility of the government to protect the rights of every citizen. If any government agency cannot perform this duty, they must be held accountable. The manifesto set out by Awami League on the occasion of the 7 January election also reiterated this promise. But how will it happen? If the agency or the member of an agency facing allegation conducts the investigation, real truth will not be revealed. In that case, independent investigation commission or neutral investigation agency must be formed.

To establish the rule of law in the country, the members of law enforcement agencies must also be respectful to the law, and anyone violating this must be brought to book.