As senior MPs and lawmakers of the country demanded death in crossfire for rapists, how legal is the demand?
Senior lawmakers of the country are advocating for killing convicted rapists in "crossfire" in the parliament following the recent protests against rape. They have also demanded an amendment in the law asking for a provision of death penalty for rapists.
Lawmakers from both the treasury and opposition bench have called upon the honourable speaker to set a date for opening a discussion about the recent rape spree and rise of other crimes in the country.
Comparing rapists with drug dealers, Bangladesh Awami League's elderly leadership Tofail Ahmed urged "instant killing through crossfire" of a rapist and tougher law to be established to control the situation.
When the parliament members of a country fully consent for providing capital punishments to the accused without taking them through proper judicial process, it is indeed a matter of great concern for the citizens of the country.
The practice of "crossfire" has already burdened the nation as it is used as a weapon for invoking constant fear in public. Apart from that, public demand circulating on social media these days – to put rapists in crossfire gets a legal ground. However, it is important to realise that they are only taking advantage of the situation by making it look like an execution of public demand.
While Bangladesh is committed to meet its development goals – a progressive course, it makes no sense that our lawmakers would resort to such a medieval remedy to be in control of a sensitive situation, given that the act of crossfire remains unconstitutional till date.
Justice has to be done – but not at the cost of denying the systematic legal framework. It only makes public the ultimate sufferers of a lawless state which Bangladesh has been for some time now. It is time that the consequences of such uncouth actions be discussed.
Crimes are on the rise, so is the government's failure to ensure security and justice. It is harder to punish perpetrators as they pull connections of powerful people – stopping the law from punishing them.
Crossfires would not contribute in improving the situation in any way.
On the other hand, extra-judicial killing diminishes human rights and goes against democracy. We must not welcome a "legal Hercules" which would not only threaten the legal system, but also would give rise to extra-judicial killings.
Sultana Kamal, renowned lawyer and human rights activist, told The Business Standard, "First of all, there is no scope to approve crossfire as it is unconstitutional. There is a clear direction on how to treat an accused person in our law. Secondly, when the top lawmakers talk like this, they provoke people to be disrespectful to the legal system. It is a very dangerous discussion. We are very disturbed and concerned."
According to a report published on November 04, 2019 by human rights organisation Amnesty International, 466 people were killed in the name of crossfire in the year 2018 only. The number is three times bigger than in 2017.
Extra-judicial killings, abduction and disappearances, unwarranted arrests are causing fear in people.
In June 2018, a number of UN Special Rapporteurs to Bangladesh expressed their concern about reports received of more than 13,000 persons arrested, and others subjected to enforced disappearances in the period from May 15, 2018 to June 06, 2018 as per the above mentioned report.
This is the scenario of extra-judicial killing on the accusation of drug-dealing alone. With increasing loss of faith and respect in the legal system already, the situation will worsen if crossfire is legalised.
Barrister Jyotirmoy Barua, advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh, said to TBS, "Proposing such illegal actions in the parliament is the ultimate violation of the parliament members' oath. We have to question the lawmakers' knowledge as it seems that they do not know what is legal and what their responsibilities are." He also added, "Starting from power practice to the judiciary process, the reasons are many behind rapists not getting punished. The aim should be solving the problems in the system, not promoting an illegal method like crossfire."
But why would the people of a democratic country support this? Getting justice through the legal system is near to impossible, and people are looking for instant alternative. This is evident from Nayan Bond's death in crossfire, the main accused of Rifat murder-case in Barguna – people on social media showered comments in appreciation.
According to a report by Ain o Salish Kendro (ASK), the number of killing through crossfire was 377 in 2005 and 362 in 2006 when Bangladesh National Party was in power.
The fresh start of anti-narcotic drive was in May, 2018, when the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina declared an "anti-drug war". According to the Amnesty International report, 52 people were killed within the first ten days of this operation only.
The death of Teknaf municipality ward councillor and local Awami League leader accused for drug dealing in May 27, 2018, became a matter of great concern when the entire country expressed their opinion against crossfire questioning the transparency of the security forces.
Thailand and Philippines also launched this anti-drug wars against the traffickers and drug-dealers in 2003 and 2016 respectively.
Around 2,800 cases of killings took place in Thailand within three months. Though the Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was praised by his people at first, it did not have the desired impact on drug dealing.
Moreover, an investigation conducted later found that half the people killed were not involved in drug dealing. In Philippines also, after the declaration of the war against drug by the president Rodrigo Duterte, 12,000 people were killed in two years. In both the cases, the unwarranted killings did not affect the reality of drug trafficking in a large scale.
It is time to question the viability of supporting extra-judicial killings under any circumstance. More importantly, the psychology behind crimes as that rape has to analysed, and solutions should be brought accordingly.