Int’l Crisis Group: End political interference in justice system

BANGLADESH-WARCRIME-COURT-PAKISTAN

The International Crisis Group has expressed concerns over the ongoing political repression in Bangladesh saying that the government’s abuse of rule of law institutions for political ends has created an atmosphere of injustice that is increasingly exploited by anti-state extremist groups.

To overcome the situation the Brussels-based organisation in its new report “Political Conflict, Extremism and Criminal Justice in Bangladesh” has suggested that the government restore political stability and ensure security, respect the constitutional right to free speech and dissent, ensure due process and end political interference in the justice system, modernise the criminal justice system and push for a broader political reform agenda.

Executive Summary of the Report

Full Report

As the Awami League government’s political rivalry with the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) reaches new heights, so has its repression. At the same time, a deeply politicised, dysfunctional criminal justice system is undermining rather than buttressing the rule of law.

Heavy-handed measures are denting the government’s legitimacy and, by provoking violent counter-responses, benefiting violent party wings and extremist groups alike,” the report says.

The ICG asked the government to depoliticise and strengthen all aspects of the criminal justice system, including the judiciary, “so it can address the country’s myriad law and order challenges and help stall a democratic collapse.”

On the other hand, the BNP should commit to peaceful opposition, including by preventing party activists from using violence to subvert the political order; and sever ties with political allies who use violence to destabilise the government.

It says the political conflict between the Awami League and the BNP has resulted in high levels of violence and a brutal state response. “The government’s excesses against political opponents and critics include enforced disappearances, torture and extra-judicial killings.”

The group says that the permissive legal environment is creating opportunities for extremist outfits to regroup, manifested in the killings of secular bloggers and foreigners and attacks on sectarian and religious minorities last year.

The ICG has also urged the government to withdraw all cases against journalists, human rights groups and other civil society actors that are based on vague and dubious grounds, such as expressing views deemed “derogatory” of public officials or against the “public interest,” and end press closures and raids on media offices.

It has demanded that the 2014 national broadcast policy be withdrawn and the restrictions on online expression in the Information and Technology Act be removed.

The judiciary should refrain from issuing contempt of court citations to media and other civil society representatives for criticising court judgements, and overturn unjustified contempt convictions in other courts, including the International Crimes Tribunal.

The government’s reaction to rising extremism, including arrest and prosecution of several suspects without due process and transparency, is fuelling alienation that these groups can further exploit,” it observes.

Politicising the police and using elite forces, particularly the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), to silence political dissent, are laying the seeds of future violence. By concentrating on targeting the opposition, the police are failing to curb criminality and losing credibility.

The report says that while reforming the dysfunctional criminal justice system – by investing in training, equipping and otherwise modernising the police, prosecution and judiciary, the government must take it out of politics.

The deeply flawed International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) is an important example of the dangers of using rule of law institutions for political ends. Perceptions of injustice are creating opportunities for extremist groups and fuelling political conflict.”

The report says that the international community can help to promote political reconciliation by, in the US and EU case, using economic levers to pressure Dhaka to respect civil and political rights, and in New Delhi’s by using close ties to urge the AL to allow the opposition legitimate political expression and participation.

There is no time to lose. If mainstream dissent remains closed, more and more government opponents may come to view violence and violent groups as their only recourse.”

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Moja losss? admin highly privileged

Moja losss? is regarded as a social campaigning Facebook page that advocates for social justice. It’s popular for satirical and troll contents focusing on politicians and media persons. Despite some controversies the page and its invisible admin(s) have recently gained massive sympathy after RAB arrested Refayat Ahmed, the alleged admin of the page also referred as Chowdhury Shaheb. He was sued for propagating anti-state and anti-government activities since long.

Moja losss? now and then

In April, the page claimed that they were threatened by the government and so they were thinking of changing style. The page didn’t clarify the claim when approached by the media.

Unfortunately, several hours after his arrest, Refayat under police custody shared a post from his profile claiming that his involvement with the page could never be proven, and that he had done nothing wrong.

Police didn’t give any explanation. We know detained persons can enjoy privileges in our country in exchange for bribes.

Refayat showed his power again by securing bail from a court that has no authority to deal with cases filed under the ICT Act!

Now you sum up the facts and see how he abused power to enjoy privileges.

আবর্জনা পোড়ানো বন্ধ কর!

SAMSUNG

শীত এলেই রাস্তাঘাটে ময়লা-আবর্জনা জড়ো করে পোড়ানোর ধুম লাগে। সাধারণত সিটি কর্পোরেশনের কর্মী, এলাকার গার্ড বা দাড়োয়ানেরা “মশা তাড়ানোর” নাম করে এই আকাম করে দায় সারতে চায়। বিশেষ করে ডাস্টবিনের আশেপাশে এমন ঘটনা আজকাল হরহামেশাই চোখে পড়ছে।

ছোট আগুন দেখলে আমি গিয়ে পানি ঢালি, কিন্তু বড় সড় হয়ে গেলে আশাহত হই।

গত দুইদিন ধরে কে বা কারা আমাদের বাসার পাশের খালি জায়গাটার আগাছা-ময়লা-আবর্জনা পরিষ্কার করছে। ভালো কথা। কিন্তু কাজের শেষে সেখানে আগুন জ্বালিয়ে দেয়া হচ্ছে। ফলে তৈরি হচ্ছে বিষাক্ত ধোঁয়া!

এই ধোঁয়া কতটা ক্ষতিকর তা হয়তো সেই পরিচ্ছন্নতা কর্মী বা বাড়ির দাড়োয়ানেরা জানেনা। কিন্তু নগরের তথাকথিত শিক্ষিত অধিবাসীরা কি করছে? তারা কেন এভাবে আগুন জ্বালানোর প্রতিবাদ করছে না?

আজ সিদ্ধান্ত নিলাম কারো আশায় বসে থাকবো না। কালই আদাবর থানায় যাবো, লিখিত অভিযোগ জানাবো।

খবর নিয়ে জানলাম আমাদের পাশের প্লটে পরিষ্কার করে আগুন জ্বালানোর বুদ্ধিটা এই আবাসিক এলাকার সভাপতির। অভিযোগটা তার বিরুদ্ধেই করবো। দেখি পুলিশ কি করে।

পুলিশ ব্যবস্থা না নিলে পরিবেশ অধিদপ্তরে গিয়ে আবার অভিযোগ জানাবো। শুধু আমার এলাকায় নয়, এমনভাবে আবর্জনা যেন কোথাও না পোড়ানো হয় তার জন্য কর্তৃপক্ষের কাছে আবেদন করবো।

বিষাক্ত বাতাসের কারনে আমার ও আমার পরিবারের সদস্যদের, বিশেষ করে আমার শিশুটির, যে শারীরিক ক্ষতি হবে তার দায় যেহেতু কেউ নেবে না, সেহেতু এহেন কর্মকান্ড বন্ধ করতেই হবে।

Rajon Murder: Police could act responsibly

Justice is what we demand
Justice is what we demand

Performing the duties properly is the main task of a disciplined force like the police. However, the real picture is different in Bangladesh. Here the police are seen taking the side of the accused in most cases in exchange for money, for example, in the case of Rajon murder in Sylhet.

The local police were not prompt in identifying the accused who brutally tortured the teenager for hours to death from the video footage they had uploaded on Facebook! Moreover, at least three officers of Jalalabad police helped the prime accused, Kamrul Islam, flee the country.

Bangladeshi expatriates in Saudi Arabia were brave enough to capture Kamrul and hand him over to the local police. His repatriation is due within two weeks.

Even though the officers were identified and found guilty of negligence in duties, behaving rudely with Rakib’s father — the plaintiff, and assisting one of the suspects to flee the country, they were merely transferred! The Police Headquarters have utterly failed to show their willingness to enforce the laws.

On September 22, a Sylhet court indicted 13 accused including three fugitives in connection with the murder case, only two and a half months into the killing. But we don’t see the names of the three officers — Jalalabad Inspector (investigation) Alamgir Hossain, and sub-inspectors Aminul Islam and Zakir Hossain — in the charge sheet.

As the incident created much hype across the world, many VIPs visited Rajon’s house to condol his family members. They also assured the family of ensuring justice in the case. They include Finance Minister AMA Muhith, Home Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, State Minister for Women and Children Affairs Meher Afroz Chumki and many other government high-ups.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman later said any police personnel found to be negligent in dealing with the Rajon murder case would face stern departmental action. But we don’t see any significant step taking against the trio yet.

The visit of the National Human Rights Commission was significant. He suggested that the authorities sue the police officers since suspension or transfer was not enough.

Sheikh Azizur Rahman, father of Rajon, also sent a memorandum to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina seeking justice for his son. In the memo, he made four demands to the prime minister: repatriation of Kamrul Islam, exemplary punishment of all killers through speedy trial, punishment of the police officials who tried to cover up the murder in exchange of bribe, and security for his family.

On the other hand, the premier said the culprits behind the recent incidents of child repression would not be spared. “We’ll have to ensure exemplary punishment to show people that no one is spared if one commits crimes,” she said.

Well, please show that you don’t forget what you pledge!

নারী নির্যাতনকারীদের ধরতে পুলিশ গড়িমসি করে কেন?

অদ্ভুত লাগে যখন দেখি ধর্ষণ, যৌন হয়রানি ও স্বামীর দ্বারা নির্যাতনের শিকার নারীদের অভিযোগের বিষয়ে পুলিশ সদস্যরা কেন যেনো একটু অপারগতা দেখায়। আর জিজ্ঞাসাবাদের নামে হেনস্তা তো আছেই। মামলা নেয়া থেকে শুরু করে, তদন্ত, আদালতে অভিযোগপত্র জমা দেয়া…সব কিছুতেই একটা অনীহা চোখে পড়ে। আর তাদের সবচেয়ে বেশি এলার্জি আসামিদের ধরায়। তাদের কর্মকাণ্ডে মনে হয় আসামিরা তাদের আত্মার আত্মীয়! পরিস্থিতি এতই নাজুক যে এসব অভিযোগের পক্ষে অজস্র উদাহরণ দেয়া যাবে।

সামাজিকভাবে হেনস্তা হবার সম্ভাবনার পাশাপাশি থানায় হয়রানি ও মামলার দীর্ঘসূত্রিতার কারনেই অনেক নির্যাতিতাই পুলিশের সহায়তা নিতে যান না, ফলে সেসব ঘটনা চাপা পড়ে যায়। নিজের মধ্যে সেই নির্যাতনের ক্ষত নিয়েই দিন পার করেন নারীরা। অনেকেই আত্মহত্যা করে কষ্ট থেকে মুক্তি নেন।

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এ বছরের একুশে ফেব্রুয়ারির সন্ধ্যায় বই মেলার সোহরাওয়ার্দী উদ্যানের অংশে কমপক্ষে তিনজন নারী বিকৃত যৌন রুচির কিছু খবিশের পাল্লায় পড়েন। ঢাকা ট্রিবিউন পত্রিকার এক আলোকচিত্রী একটি ঘটনার মুখোমুখি হলে দ্রুত কয়েকটি ছবি তুলেন। তাকে দেখে নির্যাতনকারীদের মধ্যে একজন তেড়ে আসে।

পরদিন পত্রিকায় ছাপা হয় দুটি ছবি, ফেসবুকের কল্যানে দ্রুত ছড়িয়ে যায় হাজারো মানুষের কাছে।নির্যাতনকারীরা কেউ মামলা করতে থানায় যান নি। তাই পুলিশ গা করেনি। তারা নিজে থেকেও দায়িত্ব নেননি। গত কয়েক মাসে এদের মধ্যে একজনকে শনাক্ত করা সম্ভব হলেও আমাদের পুলিশ বাহিনী এ বিষয়ে কিছু করতে নারাজ। তাদের অনেক কাজ আছে।

আমার মতো অনেকেই ক্ষুব্ধ হয়ে ছবিগুলো এখনো মাঝে মাঝে শেয়ার করে যেন সেই নির্যাতকদের চেহারা সবার মনে থাকে। যেন কখনো সেই সব পুং-লিংগ সর্বস্ব নির্যাতকদের হাতের কাছে পেলে একটা ব্যবস্থা নেয়া যায়। এই ছোট ঘটনার ই যেখানে কূলকিনারা হয়না, সেখানে পহেলা বৈশাখে ২০-২৫জন মেয়ের যৌন হয়রানি (কিছু ছেলেপেলের দুষ্টামির) বিচার চাইতে ভয় লাগে।

Crossfires can’t stop crimes

Chhatra League President Arju Mia of Hazaribagh unit has been killed by RAB in an alleged gunfight with his cohorts. His family members claim that he had no criminal record.

The killing took place around 2:30am on Wednesday when RAB said they were in a drive to arrest Arju’s friends who had killed 16-year-old innocent Raja Mia in Gonoktuli area on Monday.

He was blamed for mugging mobile phone and laptops of Arju and beaten mercilessly by the gang.

The Daily Prothom Alo published the news with top priority on its front page today. Television channels aired reports last night.

Elite force Rapid Action Battalion has done its job; they killed the key accused, apparently for some reasons the people don’t know.

This morning brought me another crossfire news, from Magura, where Chhatra League infighting caused severe harm to the ruling party’s reputation.

A pregnant mother was bullet-hit and so her child inside the womb. She had to be operated soon and the baby brought outside several weeks before due date. After two weeks of treatment the baby girl survived and got her mother.

The number three accused Azibur was killed in an alleged gunfight with the police. Did he know something that could harm the party highups in Magura?

Some people believe that such extrajudicial killings will create panic among criminals. But crime rate has been on the rise even though RAB has killed hundreds of criminals and innocent people since its inception in 2004.

Why can’t you arrest the criminals without causing any harm?

Blogger murder investigations in limbo

religion_politicsFive secular Bangladeshi writers have been killed since November of 2014: Rajshahi University professor AKM Shafiul Islam, and writers Avijit Roy, Oyasiqur Rahman BabuAnanta Bijoy Das, and the latest got killed on August 7. Niloy Neel alias Niladri Chatterjee used to write against religious fanaticism, Jamaat-e-Islami as well as on rights issues. Before his murder, Niloy had sought police protection, but refused.

But there is no progress in the investigations, thanks to the reluctance of the Islamic state and its law enforcement agencies.

At least a dozen more have been killed and scores of others attacked or threatened with death for their progressive and secular views, since massive protests erupted in 2013 calling for Islamist parties to be banned. The protesters also demanded that war criminals including some Islamist politicians be hanged for war crimes committed in 1971. A war crimes court handed down a series of death sentences to a number of people including a few Islamist leaders later that year.

All of the murdered bloggers or activists had one thing in common: they openly opposed Bangladesh’s increasingly unpopular largest Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami, and similar communal Islamist organisations, who have been fighting a losing battle for a more conservative, religion-based legal regime in the country since 1971 when the country first won independence from Pakistan. In 2013, Bangladesh’s Supreme Court declared the Jamaat illegal, blocking it from contesting in the country’s elections.

Law enforcement and the judiciary have failed to adequately investigate the recent killings, some of which have happened with apparent blessings from international militant groups like al-Qaeda.

Bangladesh is a non-religious parliamentary democracy, which means there is no Sharia or blasphemy law. People who identify as atheists have the same rights as other citizens. However, under Section 295A of Bangladesh’s Penal Code (1860), any person who has a “deliberate” or “malicious” intention of “hurting religious sentiments” is liable to imprisonment. While Bangladesh’s constitution has recognised and protected the right to secularism since 2011, it also allows religion-based politics and identifies Islam as its state religion. Government inaction and police ineffectiveness have also given Islamist groups a certain amount of impunity.

Several militant leaders and field-level workers were arrested in a crackdown recently, including an alleged leader of Al-Qaeda’s branch in the region. Al-Qaeda in South Asia has claimed responsibility for the murder of several secular bloggers in Bangladesh this year, including Mukto-Mona blog (free-thinker) founder Avijit Roy.

Law enforcers have also identified new militant organizations that are campaigning against progressive cultural norms to justify the need for Islamic revolution in this state. But the cases of the bloggers and professor mentioned above have scarcely seen progress. Police last week claimed to have identified seven suspected killers of Avijit, saying that their photos had been verified by the wife of the slain blogger, but Mukto-Mona blog refuted the claim on Thursday.

Global Voices contacted several secular bloggers and online activists to know their views regarding the recent killings, investigation process and possible future plan of the militant groups operating in the country. We received responses from four individuals. Several others refrained from making any comment out of fear of reprisal.

Read the interviews on Global Voices