Personal liberty and extra-judicial killing
Human rights are those of legal and moral rights which can be claimed by any person for the very reason that he is a human being. These rights come with birth and are applicable to all people throughout the world, irrespective of their race, colour, sex, language or political or other identities. These are therefore those rights that are inherent and inalienable in human person and without them he cannot live as a human being. Human rights, which every citizen is entitled to enjoy, are enshrined in part II and III of the Constitution of Bangladesh.
Under Articles 31 and 32 the right to protection of the law, and to be treated in accordance with law, is the inalienable right of every citizen, and no action detrimental to the life, personal liberty, body, reputation or property of any person shall be taken except in accordance with law. No person shall be deprived of life or personal liberty saves in accordance with law.
Despite having the most appreciated fundamental human rights guaranteed in the constitution it has been widely reported in Bangladesh that in the last few years there has been a pattern of extrajudicial killings going on in the name of "crossfire", "gunfight" or "encounter", though people live in a democracy and the Constitution protects and ensures fundamental rights for every individual in the country.
Until recently a new term has been improvised, a new culture of enforced disappearances has developed, which is alarming and this adds to disrespect for human rights and thus the long practice of impunity and a weak criminal justice system has been common in Bangladesh.
The government seems to have not done enough to effectively address extra-judicial killings and the recent spate of killings and disappearances, and the inaction in this regard has led to a culture of impunity in which more killings and human rights violations are taking place. Although the authorities in Bangladesh have announced measures on the recent epidemic of killings and disappearances, no positive steps have been taken till now to investigate the spate of recent disappearances.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 (UDHR) states in Article 8: "Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunal for acts violating the fundamental rights granted to him by the constitution or by law." No democracy can function successfully in absence of some basic freedoms. Modern democratic government is a party government. The party winning majority in the election forms government.
But after coming into power the government may sometimes forget about the basic rights of the people. The aim of having a declaration of fundamental rights in the constitution is to prevent such a possible danger. They provide a restraint on the power of the government so that it cannot interfere with the people's basic rights according to its whims. This is why insertion of a bill of right in a written constitution is considered one of the safeguards of democracy. Bangladesh did it.
As a member of the UN Bangladesh is signatory to many international human rights instruments like the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 3 of the UDHR states that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person whereas Article 10 states, everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him." ICCPR carries similar provisions in Articles 6 and 14 to protect a person's rights to life and fair trial and to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to the law. But to what extent Bangladesh government maintains those provisions is a great question.
The right to life enjoys the status of 'supreme right' in international law. It has been accorded highest protection as a 'peremptory/imperative norm from which no derogation is permissible, even in time of war or other public emergency. Affording such protection to the right to life signifies that utmost importance has been attached to it in various articles of international instruments. So, for example, Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) 1966 provides:
"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."
In international human right law, the right to life is perceived as a 'right not to be killed', affording protection to human life against arbitrary and intentional deprivation/killing and imposing a correlative obligation on others to forbear or refrain from interfering with the life of the right-bearer. This right establishes an obligation on the State to afford protection to the life of the individuals against unlawful, unwarranted and arbitrary killing. The State is therefore under two countervailing obligations as follows:
a. To forbear or refrain from arbitrarily depriving or taking the life of an individual, and
b. To take reasonable steps and adopt appropriate measures to prevent the taking of life by police and security forces.
The State is further required to provide in its law for ensuring protection of human life. Thus the taking of life in the circumstances described above must generally be illegal under law.
Government has to take proper step to stop those extra judicial killings. Extra judicial killing is not only negatively affects people's faith on the judicial system; it's also bad for the image of the government and also the country. Different international organizations, local organization and also general people are now talking about extra-judicial killings and they raise their voice against those killings. So it is hoped that the government will take steps to stop extra-judicial killing and strengthen public faith on the judicial system of Bangladesh.
The writer is PhD researcher, columnist, human rights activist and lawyer in Bangladesh Supreme Court. He can be reached: [email protected]