Saturday, July 7, 2012

Conspiracy or not, there are rights violations

When questions are raised about possible hidden motives behind the works of international organisations such as Human Rights Watch, they should certainly not be dismissed off. Many such organisations in the global arena, particularly when it comes to the issue of various races and nations, have often displayed a bias, or a tendency to selective interpretation, or downright service to some propaganda. So, as New Age reported on Saturday, when the government rejects the US-based organisation’s report on war crimes and BDR rebellion trials as ‘false, baseless and concocted’ and ‘a part of international conspiracy and false propaganda against it’, there is certainly no reason to think that the government, under normal circumstances, is completely wrong. 

However, the trouble for the government this time around is, what they – Human Rights Watch - are saying is not very different from what ordinary people and rights groups in the country have been saying for long.

Take the example of the BDR Mutiny Trial. A persistent concern, among many other things, has been the mysterious death of more than 50 soldiers of the erstwhile Bangladesh Rifles, also suspects in the trial, while in the custody of the investigating authorities. Despite much protest from the families of the victims and concerns raised by local rights groups, the government has so far failed to investigate the deaths. Or for that matter, take the case of the Rapid Action Battalion. From March 2004, when it was formed, till March 2012, 711 people have died at the hands of the Rapid Action Battalion and 70 more in joint operations of police and RAB. Even after the incumbents came to power on the back of an electoral pledge to stop extrajudicial killings, more than a 100 have died in the hands of the RAB, while there has been an alarming rise in enforced disappearances. And yet, the law minister on Thursday claimed ‘law enforcement agencies took action in a given situation’.

Unfortunately for the government, most of the allegations leveled by the Human Rights Watch, this time around, ring true. Extrajudicial killings carried out by law enforcers have been going on rampantly for a number of years, while concerns and apprehensions about the BDR Mutiny Trial or the War Crimes Trial, are concerns shared by many people in the country. Going beyond that, as most local rights groups concur, the government has been directly and indirectly responsible for a number of other forms of rights violations, including repression of opposition groups.

So, if the government feels that Human Rights Watch, or for that matter any such similar organization, is taking part in a conspiracy, than it falls upon the government disprove the allegations leveled by them, rather than just ‘crying foul’. Unfortunately, when 50 BDR soldiers die of mysterious heart attacks while in custody, while over 700 die at the hands of just one law enforcement agency in eight years, than the government has literally handed over the ‘recipe’ for a conspiracy. Rather than cry out with counter-allegations, the government must ensure that rights violations are brought to an end, so that in the future no organisation, as part of a conspiracy or out of genuine concern, can accuse the government of such misdeeds.