Rights landscape sees advent of ‘ghost’ cases, alarming rise in custodial deaths

The number of ‘ghost’ cases (gayebi in Bangla), arrests of political leaders and activists and the use of the police force for political ends continues unabated in the country, according to a human rights monitoring report.


The term ‘ghost’ cases was coined by opposition activists to describe a category of false case filed against someone who is not even present at the scene of the crime, hence gayebi or ‘ghost’.


Contrary to an impression that grew in the wake of the US government’s sanctions against paramilitary force RAB as an entity and seven present or former personnel last December, the report by the Manabadhikar Shongskriti Foundation (Human Rights Culture Foundation, or MSF) finds extrajudicial killings in what are claimed to be ‘gunfights’ have not stopped, while deaths, torture and harassment in police custody or prison have increased significantly.


Meanwhile the incidence of violence against women and children, including rape, declined in November, but still remains at alarming levels.


Read more: BNP at IGP’s door; Seeks remedy for ‘fictitious’ cases


MSF, which was founded by renowned human rights activist Sultana Kamal as an entity committed to protect and promote human rights across the country, revealed the findings in its monthly human rights monitoring report for November this year.


MSF prepared the monthly report based on news published in various national dailies, besides reporting by its own sources, from November 1 to 30 this year.


According to the MSF report, the police and pro-Awami League men conducted various activities centering the divisional rallies of opposition party BNP in order to prevent the leaders, workers and supporters of the opposition parties from going to the meeting place.


Especially, the public transport workers and owners’ leaders used the transport sector for political interests, preventing road and waterway communication to the rally venues in the name of strikes.


The law enforcement agencies and the government party workers’ obstruction of opposition leaders, supporters and activists’ who were going to join the rally from different places were gross violations of civil and political rights, the MSF said in its report.


According to data collected by MSF from media reports, 40 ‘ghost’ cases were filed centring the BNP’s Rajshahi divisional rally in November month alone, with over 10,000 accused.


A BNP delegation led by the party’s Vice-Chairman Barkatullah Bulu met IGP Chowdhury Abdullah Al-Mamun at the Police Headquarters (PHQ) this week, where Bulu told reporters after the meeting: “Members of police and Awami League men are exploding crude bombs but cases are being filed against BNP men. They are being arrested in ‘ghost’ cases.”


During November, 59 incidents of political violence occurred, as recorded by MSF. A total of seven people were killed in political violence, including one Chhatra Dal leader killed in police firing. Apart from this, a total of 527 people were victims of violence, out of which 10 people are under treatment in hospitals with serious gunshot wounds, 517 people are injured.


There were five incidents of extrajudicial killings claimed to be ‘gunfights’ in November. One youth and one woman were killed in two incidents of alleged firing, while one Rohingya woman and three (3) others were shot and seriously injured in two other separate incidents.


Read more: HC turns down plea seeking panel to probe ‘fictitious’ cases


According to the MSF report, three people died while attempting to escape the custody of law enforcement agencies, of whom one died by jumping into water while trying to escape arrest, one died after falling from a roof while trying to escape and one person died after hitting a tree while trying to escape.


Besides, eight people including one woman died in prison custody, which is denoted as ‘very alarming’ by MSF. The number of such deaths was three in the previous month of October.


Due to inadequate treatment facilities in jail, most of the sick prisoners were taken to the Medical College Hospital outside the jail and declared dead by the doctor on duty.


MSF believes that inmates inside prisons are living inhumane lives with mental and physical problems. As a result, in addition to improving the medical system, MSF urged the authorities to properly investigate each death in custody.


Source: United News of Bangladesh