Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Bangladesh now: Bullying, Brutality and Bias

My thanks to Max Horn for another thought-provoking piece.

'Bangladesh now: Bullying, brutality and bias

'Talk of bullying! 

'While the government in Bangladesh has morphed into a horrendous bully for the people of that country it has primarily utilized law enforcement (note the irony) personnel to achieve that sordid objective. (See earlier post Bangladesh now: A proto-fascist kleptocracy?) Even though the politicization of law enforcement in Ba'Bangladesh ngladesh began some years back, the present ruling clique drove in the final nail by completing the process by infusing the element of criminalization.

'One of the well-recorded actions of the police and its more Rambo-like partner, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), has been the deaths of many people in purported “crossfires”. These have been enumerated regularly by international human rights organizations (e.g. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Asian Human Rights Commission and the Bangladeshi watchdog with cross-national affiliations Odhikar, among others) and their protests and objections have been repeatedly conveyed to the administration.

'But deaths by the law enforcers persist with clockwork regularity, and to that has now been added the police firings---along with party cadres doing precisely the same with their guns in close cooperation with law enforcement officials and often with media cameras recording the scene---into rallies with the obvious intent to kill.

'And kill they have scored in large numbers. Last February, it has been recorded, almost one hundred people died due to these gunslingers’ bravado. The crime of the dead: they were opposition political activists demonstrating in support of political goals.

'What became conspicuous during my short residence there is that the impunity provided to the police and RAB initially for the “crossfire” deaths has now been extended to all deaths in police actions. Consequently, there is no known instance when any police officer has been tried for what has been called by the rights watchdogs as extra-judicial killings but which in reality are plain extra-judicial executions.

'Additionally, they have also been reported (mainly by the families of the victims) to be involved in the abductions and subsequent disappearances of a number of people, mostly opposition politicians. Of course, law enforcement officials and government leaders have continued to deny the reported involvement. On the other hand, law enforcement has not been able to locate any of the victims so far.
And here is another fact: in opinion surveys the crown for the most corrupt institution in that country has often been claimed by the police. There have been numerous reported incidents when law enforcement has picked up innocent persons only to intimidate them into paying sufficient money to have the arrested persons released from avaricious hands. When the demands are not fulfilled the seized people and their families are threatened with gunfire to maim the arrested persons.

'These facts may be difficult to comprehend---though they indeed have occurred in other countries as well---but these realities and more are well-documented by human rights organizations and many have already been reported in the country’s media. But instead of taking actions against any negligence, to say nothing of deviant involvement, by law enforcement the ruling clique has actually rewarded police personnel who have engaged in activities which may be described as being above and beyond the call of duty.

'For instance, one police officer was awarded the President’s Medal after he had assaulted a senior member of parliament of the main opposition party in full view of media cameras and onlookers. In one other case, another officer was treated to a sponsored junket to Singapore after he had raided the headquarters of the largest opposition political party and arrested all those who were at that time present in the building.

'While the police force and RAB are thus being utilized recklessly to suppress dissent they have simultaneously utterly failed to perform with any degree of efficacy the primary responsibilities and duties they are expected to do according to the law. They have till today, as a case in point, not succeeded in solving any of the high-profile murder incidents, like the one in which a husband and wife journalist couple were horrifically stabbed to death in their apartment in spite of repeated assurances from the government.

'Increasingly so far, they have displayed an extraordinary ability to fail in all the tasks the nation expects of them: from being unable to protect the citizens from criminals (especially those who have connections with ruling party leaders) to solving murder cases to even being unable to manage vehicular traffic in the cities and highways where total anarchy rules with policemen on duty blatantly accepting money from operators of trucks and buses, and even squeezing whatever they can from the meager earnings of pedicab drivers.

'The unfortunate nation of Bangladesh, for eons a regular victim of vicious tropical storms and devastating inundations, is now facing the cavalier brutality of law enforcement utilized for purely political purposes.

'Added to these misfortunes is the recent development of sections of the media reporting news as they see it from their political perspectives; i.e. not based on the facts but on the basis of perceptions colored by the owners’/editors’ opinions. And even the arrest and torture of an editor and closure of his newspaper; and the suspension of a couple of TV stations brought little or no protest from certain segments of news outlets.

'It is, of course, a historical fact that repressive, intolerant regimes have always been scared of the written and spoken words. But that one part of the media should be intolerant of the news and views of another part is evidently a fact that does not augur well.

'Thus the wholesale and deliberate denudation of the quality of all institutions in that country continues and the last resort of the citizen, the judiciary, has also been made subservient to the executive. Almost no attention is given to the principles of due process and rule of law. Instead lately the ruling clique has even resorted to changing laws midway through trials to better accommodate its wishes.
This then is Bangladesh now: a nation confronting frightful realities and unable even to protest due to the real fear that protest may mean death.


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