Published in The Daily Star ::
HRW asks govt over shooting Limon
Bangladesh government should prosecute the Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) members responsible for the 2011 attack on Limon Hossain that caused him to lose a leg, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said. The authorities have finally dropped politically-motivated charges against Limon, but have not taken action against his attackers, said the New York-based rights body in a report posted on its website.
HRW has also urged the government to order an independent investigation into the attack on Limon.
“The Bangladesh government needs to take action against the Rab officer who shot Limon, which led to a permanent disability, as well as those who perverted the course of justice by bringing phony charges against him,” HRW Asia Director Brad Adams said in the report.
“It is good that Bangladesh authorities have finally dropped the spurious charges against Limon, but he never should have been charged in the first place.”
The top HRW official also said Rab was a death squad that cannot be reformed. “Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s promise of zero tolerance for abuses by Rab will continue to ring hollow unless she takes the bold step to disband it altogether.”
Limon was shot by Rab members in a bungled security operation. He was in the fields near his village in Jhalakati on March 23, 2011, when members of Rab, a paramilitary security force, accused him of being a criminal and shot him at point-blank range.
Four days later, a leg of the victim, a college student at that time, was amputated to save his life. For medical reasons, Limon was not able to return home for more than six months.
The then director general of the force said in the immediate aftermath of the shooting that Limon was an accidental victim of a shootout between Rab and criminal gangs.
However, police took no action against his attackers and instead filed several criminal charges against Limon in an attempt to shelter Rab from accountability, the HRW report said.
In June 2011, following local and international outcry over the incident, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ordered an investigation into the Rab officers’ involvement in the incident.
She also said that ongoing investigations had produced no evidence to show that Limon had any involvement with criminal activities.
Although the prime minister’s statement vindicating Limon and announcing an investigation into his shooting was extensively reported by Bangladeshi media, the government withdrew the statement within four hours, without any clarification, the report alleged.
The official police investigation into complaints filed on April 10, 2011, by Limon’s family against six Rab members has still not been completed and no charges have been filed against those who shot him.
On August 14, 2012, the police issued a report finding no evidence of Rab involvement in Limon’s shooting. HRW and others have long documented Rab’s responsibility for hundreds of extrajudicial killings and other serious human rights violations. In spite of compelling evidence, no Rab member has ever been successfully prosecuted for these crimes, the HRW report added.
The New York-based rights organisation also urged the authorities to break the cycle of impunity by successfully prosecuting those Rab officers responsible for the May 2014 execution of seven people in Narayanganj.
When in opposition the Awami League called for the disbandment of Rab and for the prosecution of those responsible for “crossfire” and other killings, but it has failed to take serious action despite hundreds of killings since it came to power, observed the rights body.
HRW reiterated its call for the Bangladesh government to disband Rab. It in the report said the Bangladesh government should withdraw all military officers and soldiers from Rab and replace it with an entirely civilian force.