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Jack Of All Trades

Some parliamentarians and the crossfire

Published : Wednesday, 22 January, 2020 at 12:00 AM  Count : 176

Nizam Ahmed

Nizam Ahmed

Execution of criminals in extrajudicial shootout cannot be accepted in a civilised society, where justice is not delayed. But in a country like Bangladesh, many people think the execution of criminals without trial is the only solution, because justice for serious offences like killing and rape comes generally after decades of long legal battles at courts which hear the charges once in months due to backlog of cases.

Many hardcore criminals including the terrorists and extremists also evade punishments when the prosecution including the law enforcers fail to prove the crimes due to lack of evidences. On the other hand many of the criminals with strong evidences behind their crimes also flee the country in connivance of corrupt law enforcers and immigration officials.

As the things go on, a perception developed among the general people that criminals won't be punished by the court as most of culprits destroy evidences immediately after committing crimes.

There are big numbers of nearly decade old widely discussed murder cases which are yet to be brought to justice, despite national outcry. The reason behind is lack of evidences. Till September last year more than 36.4 lakh cases were pending with the higher and lower courts across the country, Law Minister Anisul Huq told parliament on January 19 last. Of the pending cases, nearly 21 lakh were criminal cases that included, murder, rape and terrorism cases, the Minister said. The cases are pending or the trials are yet to be completed in the higher courts and the subordinate courts.

Many people believe that due to the reluctance of the investigators and the law enforcers the evidences cannot be collected from the crime scenes to file charges against the accused, named in the first information reports filed with the police.
During the prosecution of a crime, the trial courts need witnesses to prove the crime.  But witnesses do not dare to testify before the judges against the criminals fearing backlash from the criminal gangs. As a result judges have to acquit even known hardcore criminals in absence of evidences.

In this situation many people, especially the victims probably wish an instant punishment, even extrajudicial ones for the criminals, because they know a judicial punishment may not come soon as the crime is required to be proved in the court through a long legal battle. This section of people support execution of criminals through extrajudicial crossfire. Though the people do not really believe the story which the relevant law enforcers generally concoct after every incident of crossfire, they support such immediate execution of criminals, because in slow legal systems there is every chance that the criminals would be acquitted.

However, the judiciary or any legal system of every country accepts the rights of the law enforcers to defend themselves in case of any attack by any individual or criminal gangs. So even the courts and the judges have to believe the law enforcers when they say often with evidences before the court that they had to open fire in self defence and the criminal was accidentally came in the line of fire. These stories of crossfire are repeated and almost accepted in most Asian and African countries where socioeconomic and political commotions are rife.

In Bangladesh crossfire culture was introduced in mid 2010s when a section of politicians wanted to clean the then criminal-infested society.  They encouraged the newly constituted Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) to eliminate hardcore criminals one after another. The said section of politicians and most people heaved a sigh of relief after the killing of some dreaded criminal by RAB.  But soon after some high profile political activists indulged themselves in socioeconomic and political criminality politically subduing the law enforcers.

As the frequent occurrence of rapes and in some cases killing of the rape victims, almost have de-established the society in the recent times, a section politicians have demanded crossfire death for the rapists.

The demand was raised by some senior lawmakers of both treasury and the opposite bench in the parliament on January 14 last perhaps as a mark of indignation for criminals. Probably it was an expression of anger against the rapists, because such an unlawful demand by lawmakers standing in the parliament is unusual. They wanted to say that if one or two rapists are shot dead, recurrence of the crime would come down. The particular parliamentarians did not say that all rapists should be shot dead one by one.  Most people in Bangladesh perhaps supported the lawmakers statement delivered at the parliament on the rapists as few organisation including the Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) protested immediately against the utterances of the lawmakers.

The ruling Awami League criticising TIB statement said TIB in recent days has started to perform like an anti-government political party in the country by poking nose in almost every issues.  If the TIB has been a real watchdog on the country's politics, culture and law and order, it would have waited a bit more to see further development on this particular issue in Bangladesh, the ruling party said. Meanwhile the ruling party has clarified that the said remarks of the lawmakers at the parliament was their personal views and no circumstances the government and the parliament do not support extrajudicial killing of anyone.

But it is true that in a country of slower justice like Bangladesh it is feared that the rapists may not get proper punishment and as a result the incidents of rape may recur time and again.

Concerned people think the statement of TIB issued on January 15, was only appropriate for a country where justice is never delayed. TIB may not find everything perfect in Bangladesh compared to any other countries of efficient judiciary and legal systems. TIB should not see Bangladesh affairs with European eyes.  But it should help Bangladesh law enforcers to upgrade their investigative and help the judiciary with means to accelerate prosecution so the backlog is cases eases fast and criminals get appropriate punishment in shortest possible time.

The author is Business Editor,
The Daily Observer

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