Human Rights Watch has urged Bangladesh to suspend its ‘war on drugs’ campaign, and order an independent investigation into the allegations of “extrajudicial killings” during the campaign.
The human rights watchdog said the campaign should remain suspended until proper training and procedures were put in place to ensure security forces act in conformity with legal standards.
“The campaign against drugs has led to more than 100 violent deaths at the hands of security forces, according to local media and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs),” the New York-based international rights body said a press release.
The statement added: “It should be suspended until proper training and procedures are put in place to ensure that security forces act in conformity with Bangladesh and international legal standards.”
“While drugs are a serious problem in Bangladesh, any campaign against them should be conducted within the rule of law and avoid the use of unnecessary force,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of HRW.
“Until this spate of killings is independently investigated and proper procedures are put in place to protect the public, the campaign should be suspended,” he added.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced a ‘war on drugs’ in early May 2018 after a reported rise in methamphetamine sales and use. On May 30, Hasina said as many as 10,000 people had been arrested as part of the government’s ‘war on drugs’.
Citing reports by “independent media and human rights defenders”, the HRW statement pointed out that many of these killings were carried out at night even as family members countered government accounts that these killings occurred during gunfights.
It urged the government to establish an independent commission to investigate the allegations of extrajudicial killings, saying this was particularly important as the Bangladesh government, “despite previous commitments”, had failed to hold Rapid Action Battalion or other security forces accountable.
“Everyone deserves a fair trial and to be safe from summary execution by state security forces,” Adams said, adding: “The government of Bangladesh has long claimed that it has a zero-tolerance policy against abuses, yet we continue to see an ongoing pattern of wrongful killings, whether it is against alleged drug dealers, political opponents, or others.”