Political Crisis and Fragile Humanity in Bangladesh

Cover Story

By Zia Uddin

Bangladesh got independence in 1971 over nine month bloody liberation war. To obtain freedom of expression, freedom of association and overall to get a democratic government, fulfill and promote all human rights and ensure good governance and justice were the main motive of all freedom fighter. But after independence every incumbent government are misusing their power against the interest of the mass people. Law enforcement agencies and administration are violating human right rather than protection of citizen’s rights. Now People are thinking the government services as compassion rather than their rights. Due to over politicization in the administration and corruption people are deprived of government services. On the other hand the controversial 10th Parliamentary Elections by abolishing care taker government system without participation of all major opposition parties lead the democracy of Bangladesh into way of autocracy.  As a result socio economic development is hampered and human rights are violated seriously. Bangladesh is passing over acute political crisis where humanity is fragile. Unlimited day of blockade has been declared by opposition to hold a dialogue for interim election. But ruling party is denying holding any dialogue which has sparked the political crisis. According to Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, political and religious identity,  place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, language, or any other status.  The obligation to respect means that States must refrain from interfering with or curtailing the enjoyment of human rights. The obligation to protect requires States to protect individuals and groups against human rights abuses. The obligation to fulfill means that States must take positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights.

Human rights have been infringed and human rights activists as well as journalist have also been harassed to an unprecedented extent all over the country. The situation reached to such abysmal state that even the civilians feel insecure inside their homes and the pedestrians plus commuters doubt if they will be back safe to their loved ones at the fall of dusk. The jails are crowded with thousands of innocent men, women and children. People are crying out for justice but justice is very costly here to approach due to over politicization and corruption. Extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearance allegedly by the law enforcing agency are still on the increase which has already created a black horizon in the sky of country’s criminal justice system. Now the question glares as to what the last episode of this dirty game is; a game that claims countless innocent lives, kills mutual respect, mutual trust and tolerance and gives rise to a societal order wherein people live scared of suspicious arrest and enforced disappearance and of being killed in broad daylight in presence of armed cops. The answer is not that easy to be passed!!!

The Root of Present Political Crisis
Parliament led by Awami league abolished the caretaker government system on 30 June, 2011 without discussion of opposition parties and denying the expert opinion which had thrown the country into a political confrontation. On January 5, 2014 the controversial 10th Parliamentary Elections were held without care taker government.  Most of the political parties, which are registered with the Election Commission, including the main Opposition, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led 18-Party Alliance, did not participate in the elections. The Opposition alliance called for boycotting and resisting these elections. As a result of this boycott, 153 candidates from the ruling Awami League and its alliance were elected uncontested out of the 300 constituencies even before the elections were held; which is an unprecedented incident in a democratic electoral system According to information from the Election Commission, 40.56 percent voters casted their votes. Very low turnouts were reported by various media and election observers. For instance, Fair Elections Monitoring Alliance (FEMA) reported the voter turnout was 10 percent till 2:00 pm on Election Day and after the polling ended, it stated that the voter turnout was 14 percent.3 Meanwhile, the daily New Age reported that in most of the polling centres, the turnout was in the range of 10-12 percent, according to generous estimates and the Daily Star reported a 20 percent turnout The 5th January 2014, controversial Parliamentary election2 has put the country and nation in a deep crisis and threatens an already fragile democracy. After assuming power through this election there are allegations and evidence that leaders and activists of the ruling party Awami League are now involved in various illegal activities and encouraging criminalisation under political shelter; as a result violence continues. All kinds of freedom of opposition parties has been stopped in fear of mass revolution

Political Violence Throughout the country
Over the issue of observing 5th January as anniversary of death of democracy by opposition parties, political violence has been speeded all over the country.   from 4th January 2015 to till now 31 people has been died and 850 injured and around 75000 people has been arrested as well as  at least 678 vehicle torched 308, vehicle vandalized 678 (Report The daily Star 23,January 15)
On January 22, 2015, Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) said, Businesses are losing over Tk 2,277 crore every day due to the ongoing blockade and shutdown. In the last 16 days’ political unrest, the economy lost at least Tk 36,445 crore. The figure is equivalent to 2.69 percent of the GDP.

Unlawful Violence against Protesters
In response to the blockade protests, the police, the paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), and the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) fired indiscriminately into crowds and brutally and unlawfully beat protesters, leading to approximately 5 deaths and injuring at least 2000 on the January 2015. According to Odhikar Report about 189 peoples were killed and 9429 has been injured only in the political violence in the year of 2014
Government is reluctant to bring under law whatever crime occurred by Awami League or Chattra League. But without any kinds of legal causes Law enforcement agencies are arresting opposition leader and activists. According to Daily Prothom Alo, only on the 20th January 2015, Joint Forces have arrested 2500 people all over the country. And on the issue of 5th January observation of Anniversary of death of democracy till now at least 7500 have been arrested. Most of them are BNP and Jamat supporter.

Extra Judicial and Political Killing

Indiscriminate extra judicial killing to demolish the opposition party has been regular routine task of incumbent government of Bangladesh .Extrajudicial killing is an arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life and simply a murder. Bangladesh has earned notoriety in carrying out extrajudicial killings. The rights to life and personal liberty are under threat in Bangladesh, despite the fact that they are guaranteed by the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. Article 32 says: “no person shall be deprived of life or personal liberty, save in accordance with law”. According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights adopted in 1966 and ratified by Bangladesh in 2000, “every human being has the inherent right to life”. The Covenant also says: ‘this right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”  Different terminologies have been used by the law enforcement agencies to distract from extrajudicial killings; such as, deaths during ‘cross-fire’, ‘encounter ‘, ‘gunfight’ etc. States parties must protect individuals against abduction or detention by individual criminals or irregular groups, including armed or terrorist groups, operating within their territory. They must also protect individuals against wrongful deprivation of liberty by lawful organizations, such as employers, schools and hospitals. States parties should do their utmost to take appropriate measures to protect individuals against deprivations of liberty by the action of other States within their territory. According to Odhikar in 2014, 172 people extra judicially killed by law enforcement agencies. Among them 29 killed by RAB, 119 people killed by Police and 11 people killed by joint forces. 119 gunfight or crossfire incident happened among them 23 occurred by RAB and 83 occurred by Police.

There are some recent incidents of extra judicial and political killings such as

l    On 23 Janaury  2015, Jisan Ahmed, 26, son of late Abu Bakar from Laxmipur Sadar upazila was killed in the name of gunfight with members of Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) in Daudkandi upazila of Comilla. He was ex Jatiyatabadi Chattra Dal President. RAB claimed that he is an alleged criminal.
l    On January 19, 2015, A Narail Jamaat-e-Islami leader was killed in a in the of gunfight with Detective Branch (DB) of police at Motijheel in the capital. The dead, Imrul Qayes, 35, was the ward-1 councillor of Narail municipality and also the president of the Jamaat ward unit. He was shot nine times and each bullet pierced through the body, said Dhaka Medical College morgue sources after the autopsy. Imrul’s family sources alleged that detectives had picked up the Jamaat leader from a house at Wari. Father of a four-year-old daughter, Imrul had been practicing law in the capital, said a relative

Indiscriminate Custodial Torture in the Name of Remand
Custodial torture in the name of Remand has been also increased indiscriminately by the law enforcing agencies in Bangladesh. Article No. 35 (5) of the constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, prohibited torture completely. And in the UDHR Art.5 has stated that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. In the ICCPR Art. No 14 (2) everyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law. International Convention against Torture (CAT) has also been declared torture as the punishable offence. As the member state of this convention Bangladesh is bound to comply with this convention. In section 167 of Criminal procedure Code(Cr.P.C) has been given power to make interrogation of the accused in the interest of investigation without making torture upon an accused by the name of remand. But law enforcing agencies is oppressing and violating human rights on regular basis through the application of Section no. 54 of the Criminal Procedure Code and 167 of Cr.P.C. which constitute violations of citizens’ fundamental rights to life and liberty, to equal protection of law, to be treated in accordance with law and to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment as guaranteed under articles 32, 27, 31, 33 and 35 of the Constitution.

In the Writ petition No. 3806/1998 regarding the killing of the meritorious student Rubel popularly known as BLAST case filed by the Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) on 07 April, 2003 a bench of High Court Division of the Bangladesh Supreme Court comprising Justice Md. HamidulHaque and Justice Salma Masud Chowdhury pass an epoch making judgment regarding section no. 54 of the criminal Procedure Code relating to arrest on suspicion and for amendment of Section no. 167 of Cr. P.C regarding police remand and directed the government for amending the relevant act. Simultaneously High Court opined to abide by some specific guide lines in these two cases until the time of promulgation of new act.
The court further mentioned that, if there shall be requirement of interrogation of some one, then interrogation of the arrested person of a jail shall have to be done in a glass room in presence of advocate appointed by him and his relatives. So that in the interest of the investigation relatives and advocate of the arrested person shall not hear any question-answer. But they may observe on the matter whether or not any torture is inflicted. According to Odhikar in 2014, 10 people torture to death, 39 people Shot to death and 5 people beaten to death by law enforcement agencies.

Enforced Disappearance
‘Enforced disappearance’ is a heinous violation of human rights and an international crime. But In Bangladesh ‘Disappearance’ is, now-a-days, not a word only; rather a synonym of ‘public outcry’. The events of disappearance have already triggered a gravest hurdle in our national life by creating a dark horizon in the sky of political as well as apolitical administration. This is why all the people, from high-ranking politicians to fruit-vendors or ordinary people are living their lives with all possible ‘uncertainty’ and feel their heart well-filled with the worry of being “disappeared” as the next to the ‘queue’. Abduction, Kidnapping, killing after abduction, rescuing dead body these were the common & daily phenomenon in Bangladesh over the year of 2014. Nobody could confidently say that he/she will be able to comeback their resident safely if the go outside the home. Article 3 & 9 0f Universal declaration of human Rights declared that “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”. “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile” According to Article 6 (1) of International convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) , Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life. Article 9( 1) “Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law”. According to Odhikar 39 people allegedly disappeared by law enforcement agencies in the year 2014.  Among them 25 peoples were disappeared by RAB, 2 people by police and 8 by DB.

We can overlook to some crucial incidents such as

l    On January 5, 2014 at around 7:45pm Haji Mohammad Rafikul Islam Majumdar (42) was abducted and killed by men identifying themselves as RAB officials, claimed his mother in law, brother and relatives. Rafikul was the General Secretary of Ward 56, Dhaka unit of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and vice president of the Hawkers’ Market Committee in Dhaka.He was the son of Haji Moniruzzaman and Mosammot Sufiya Begum of Chondipur village under Shahrasti police station of Chandpur district. He was a resident at Shonir Akhra under Kodomtoli police station in Dhaka On April 27 Narayanganj City panel mayor Nazrul Islam along with six persons were kidnapped from Narayanganj district in broad day light. Nazrul Islam went to the court to face a case against him. All the seven went missing from the same time.
l    Early U.S. president Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) defined democracy as being: Government of the people, by the people, for the people.

If this is taken seriously, democracy must be by far the most challenging form of government – both for the politicians and for the people. Over and over again, history has shown that the process of building democracy is a very complicated one. Though it’s sometimes not so easy as it may seem to register voters correctly and print voting-papers, this is not enough for establishing a democracy. What is much more important and constitutes the real challenge of building democracy: Both politicians and ordinary citizens have to learn and accept the rules of democratic governance and develop trust in democracy. But due to absence of this democratic process the people and their lives are in greater sufferings and better humanity, justice, freedom of expression are denied in all spheres of governing process. Now it is all known that political violence highly got momentum and impeding the democratic process. To accomplish better human right and absolve political violence the country must be incorporated as the following. The Government should take unbiased and effective legal action against criminal acts.  Free and fair Parliamentary elections must be held immediately by ensuring participation of all political parties, under a neutral, interim government. Incidents of extrajudicial killings and torture by law enforcement agencies must be investigated and the perpetrators be brought to effective justice.  Arbitrary arrests of persons who have alternative beliefs must be stopped. The Government should immediately repeal the repressive Special Powers Act of 1974 and the Information and Communication Technology Act 2006 (Amended 2013). Meetings and assemblies should not be obstructed. The government should refrain from attacking peaceful programmes and carrying out repressive unconstitutional activities. Government must ensure the accountability of all members of law enforcement agencies and should take effective measures to end impunity.