May 23, 2019 7:56 pm
Drug addiction has now spread across every corner of Bangladesh. The drug is not only available in cities but also in the rural areas. The drug abusing has contributed to spring some new societal problems in Bangladesh. Now the much-talked drug in Bangladesh is Yaba, a red coloured tablet made up of stimulant substance like caffeine and methamphetamine that comes from, according to the Department of Narcotic Control of Bangladesh, Myanmar. It could be assumed that every year intrusion of Yaba in Bangladesh is alarmingly increasing as the seizing number suggests. According to The Daily Star, the security agencies seized only 1687 and over 36, 000 Yaba tablets respectively in 2006 and 2008. The seizing number went to 800,000 in 2010 and four years later in 2014 to 6.5 million pieces.
This increasing drug using situation leads the current government to take stern action as this posing threat to both traditional state security and human security. The consciousness the government shown against drug deserves high admiration but not the way the government is pursuing it. The government started a special drive in the second week of May led by Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), an elite force formed in 2004 as an anti-crime unite, and police. The campaign ‘Let go to war against drug’ has claimed 41 people in just nine days.
Though a civil society and media have expressed grave concern, the Home Minister of Bangladesh Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal has categorically said on Monday to a local media, “Anti-drug drive will continue. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ordered to eradicate the drug business in the country by any means. She asked to follow zero-tolerance policy on drug issue”. Mr Kamal informed that as far now the mobile court has rewarded one to six months jail to more than drug dealers and casualty took place only one or two isolated incidents where gun-fight among the drug dealers and security forces broke out. Mr Kamal does not reveal the real picture of the ‘extra-judicial’ killing.
His statement hints that the government has taken a very much planned strict measures against the drug business. But the method the government is applying is subject to severe criticism in and outside of the country. The way the Bangladesh government is carrying out the operation with affirmed boldness with the mind of discarding any criticism from home and abroad seems the clone copy of ‘drug war’ initiated by Philippine’s President Rodrigo Duterte against the drug traders in his country.
Old Wine in New Bottle
The narration of the ‘gun-fight’ killing the security officials are throwing to the media is not new. It is a cut-copy-paste type. Similar sort of story security agencies has already said many times in the passing years since RAB engaged in the anti-crime operation. The story is like this, ‘with the tip-off of the presence of drug dealers the security forces went to the scene. Sensing their presence, the ‘criminals’ starts shooting. Security persons also shoot for their self-protection. In this gun fighting the ‘suspected criminal(s)’ got killed. They have recovered a huge amount of arms and ammunition and drugs.’ This type of story tells while they go for arresting the ‘suspected’. Along with this, there is sub-story which is when a detained ‘suspected’ is found killed later. This story starts, ‘Johny and Shahin admit in interrogation that two other drug dealers Jasiyar Rahman and Nur Babu will come with a huge cache of drugs. We take them to the scene. The drug dealers start shooting at us and explode hand-bomb. Police also counter them. Johny and Shahin get killed in this fighting, and three members of police get injured.’ Johny and Shahin got killed on 21st May night after they were arrested as part of the anti-drug campaign.
The second sort of story raises the questions on the efficiency of the security forces. If a ‘suspected’ is arrested and took to the scene for arresting some more and recovering the ‘illegal things’, security forces need to ensure protection to the ‘suspected’. The suspect could reveal more sensitive information during the trial procedure. In one hand, this death of a ‘suspected’ is a human rights violation, and on the other hand, the total network of the ‘criminal’ remains in a veil.
Why By-passing Legal Procedure?
The statement of the Home Minister of Bangladesh informs that the mobile court has sentenced more than two thousands drug dealers as far now. If this is so, why is then such brutal action? Is it those who are getting killed more dangerous? Is all of them are dangerous? This new action seems to reinstate the culture of bypassing the judicial system to trial the criminal. Why is this so? Is it for the snail speed of the judicial system? If this is so why the government does not take the initiative to make it speedy? What does obstruct to do so? This extra-judicial killing is contrary to the Article 35 of the Constitution of Bangladesh. The Article 35 (3) states that “Every person accused of a criminal offence shall have the right to a speedy and public trial by an independent and impartial court or tribunal established by law”.
Is it a pretext to silence political opponent?
This action has again brought the suspension of using the state coercive apparatus against the political opponents. It is alleged that BNP used the elite forces against their political opponents while was in power. The current government is also not out of such blame. The next general election is knocking at the door. The start of such drive raises the fear that it could be used as a pretext against the political opponents. Already senior journalists and civil society representatives have expressed such concern. BNP has begun claiming that their activists are getting killed in anti-narcotic drive and the drive is a pretext that will turn against it. Senior journalist Kamal Ahmed has said in an article that the drive to recover arms in 2014 had a politically targeted dimension. The drive is posed as sensitive that no one can dare to criticize to be level as ‘sympathizer’. The media reports that case filed by Border Guard Bangladesh against a brother of known ‘drug kingpin’ Awami League Parliamentarian Abdur Rahman Bodi has not seen progress in last five years. Is it for that Bodi belongs to the ruling party? Why has not yet initiated an investigation against him and his five brothers? In the mid of the operation in response to a question of a journalist, Home Minister Mr Kamal on Tuesday refuted any connection of Bodi with illegal drug business while media reports indicate his link extensively.
A threat to Human Security
This drive will likely lead danger to the human security. While such militaristic action is pursued claiming to maintain law and order and for the protection of citizens life, this also induces security threat to the mass people. Killing the ‘suspected’ is not only a violation of the right to defend but also right to life of an individual. This special measure means the extreme abuse of power by the security forces. It would likely lure the security officials to engage in criminal activities. The cruellest example of the engagement of contractual killing of twenty-seven RAB officials was the seven murders in Narayanganj, a nearby district of Dhaka, in 2014. Several cases are reported in media regarding the involvement of RAB and police officials in extortion. Another much-talked issue was the case of Limon Hossain, a college student from the district of Jhalakathi of Southern coastal area. RAB shot at his leg and implicated him with two cases including one possessing illegal arms in 2011. After a long battle continued by Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh, Limon got an acquittal in 2014.
Double Standard of the Government
Bangladesh government expresses and urges the international community to respect the human rights globally. Bangladesh condemned extra-judicial killing supporting the resolution passed in United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2017. The new action is a sheer contrary to its international commitment.
The misery for Bangladesh is that the government is not taking the lesson from the past. Any action against any crime including drug traders needs to go after following due process. The operation should primarily focus the ‘godfather’ of the business not just only the petty drug traders and peddlers. Since the start of the operation, media are reporting that this does not touch the known ‘kingpin’ yet.
The extra-judicial method should not be admired or encouraged in any way in a modern democratic country which promises to uphold the human rights. No conscious individual is against taking action against the drug, but the culture of extra-judicial killing under the drive at any cost should not be supported as the human insecurity is the by-product of it. The practice of ignoring the legal procedure will not make people antipathy to the judicial system but also disturb the democratic environment.
Sariful Islam, an MPhil/PhD Candidate at the Department of International Relations at South Asian University, New Delhi.
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