Rights group urges Bangladesh to end ‘war on drugs’

The Human Rights Watch has urged Bangladesh to suspend its controversial anti-drug campaign and called for an independent investigation into allegations of extrajudicial killings during the drive.

The so called war on drugs has led to more than 100 killings at the hands of security forces; local media estimate the death toll to be much higher, reporting at least 140 people killed in staged gunfights with authorities.

The drive should be suspended until proper training and procedures are put in place to ensure that security forces act in conformity with Bangladesh and international legal standards, the right group said in a statement released late Wednesday.

While drugs are a serious problem in Bangladesh, any campaign against them should be conducted within the rule of law and avoid the use of unnecessary force, HRW Asia Director Brad Adams.

The government of Bangladesh has long claimed that it has a zero-tolerance policy against abuses, yet we continue to see an ongoing pattern of wrongful killings, whether it is against alleged drug dealers, political opponents, or others, Adams added.

The rights group also cited several examples of extrajudicial killings.

In one example, Habibur Rahman's family members say that he was last seen in the custody of men in civilian clothes. On May 19, the authorities announced that Rahman, 38, had been killed in a gunfight with the notorious Rapid Action Battalion [RAB], which has a long history of responsibility for extrajudicial killings. Two other men identified as Sumon Patwari, 44, and Abul Kalam, 47, were found dead along with Rahman, media reported, the statement said.

In another case, a Dhaka-based human rights group said that Islam Rony was arrested at his home. His family told journalists that the Detective Branch of the police then demanded bribes to secure his safety and release. They paid the bribes, but Rony was allegedly killed that same day.

In a recent case that has led to widespread public outrage, Akramul Haque was allegedly killed by members of RAB. His family has released audio recordings of phone conversations, including one in which gunshots that apparently killed him can be heard. The veracity of the tapes has yet to be verified. RAB claimed that Haque was killed in a gunfight. The home minister has said that the audio recordings will be investigated.

According to police, 13,000 suspects have been arrested and about 10,000 cases filed since the anti-drug drive began.

Mufti Mahmud Khan, legal and media wing director RAB -- an elite force, told Anadolu Agency last week that the anti-drug drive launched on May 4 was part of a regular drive against drugs. He also said all reports of misconduct and staged shootouts get probed internally.

Source: Anadolu Agency