Subarnachar rape verdict: Ensure speedy execution of sentence

The court has handed down sentences to 10 individuals, condemning them to death, while 6 others have been sentenced to life imprisonment for their involvement in the gang-rape incident that occurred in Noakhali's Subarnachar on the day of the 2018 elections. Judge Fatema Ferdous of Noakhali Women and Child Repression Prevention Tribunal-2 pronounced the verdict last Monday.

In the observation of the judgment, it is emphasised that such crimes not only affect the victims but also have repercussions on the state itself. The delayed verdict is welcomed.

On the night of 30 December, 2018, a 40-year-old mother of four was brutally beaten and gang-raped after her husband and children were tied up. This heinous act occurred because she did not vote for the preferred symbol at the polling station.

Following the investigation, the District Detective Police (DB) filed a charge sheet against 16 individuals, including the expelled publicity secretary of Subarnachar upazila Awami League member, Ruhul Amin, on 27 March, 2019.

The judgment underscored the principle that regardless of the criminals' power, they must face punishment for their crimes. Many have hailed this trial as a landmark. However, it remains uncertain whether this message of justice has truly resonated with the criminals.

The day after the verdict of the controversial rape case of Subarnachar was announced, reports emerged that a mother and her teenage daughter were gang-raped in Char Kazi Mokles village of the same upazila.

The peculiar connection between the two events, occurring five years apart, is the exercise of power. A local Awami League leader and his associates were among the accused sentenced to death in the first case. In the second incident, among the two individuals arrested, Abul Khair is also a local Awami League leader. According to the police, he was the one who forcibly entered the house by cutting open the door.

Quoting sources from Char Jabbar police station of Subarnachar upazila, Prothom Alo reported earlier that 30 rape cases and 71 attempted rape cases were reported in Subarnachar in 3 years and 2 months from 2018. Additionally, there were 12 cases in 2018, 24 in 2019, and 31 in 2020 on charges of attempted rape.

In the last two years, there have been many more rape cases, but few have been prosecuted. Human rights activists said that people from different areas have settled in the grazing areas, leading to conflicts. Consequently, criminal incidents have also increased.

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However, due to the long distance from remote areas to the police station, not all cases are filed. In many cases, the powerful force the victims to settle rather than pursue legal action. As a result, the actual extent of crime committed there is not known.

In 2018, the Subarnachar woman rape incident was tried in the lower court. We hope that the appeals will be disposed of at the earliest and the culprits will be punished. As the victims receive justice, heinous crimes like rape will be greatly reduced, if not completely eradicated.

The government must be extremely vigilant to ensure that no one can commit crimes in the future, even under the shelter of power.