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215 shot dead by security forces in 2013: ASK

David Bergman

Security forces were responsible for the largest number of deaths that took place in political violence in 2013, analysis of newspaper reports by one of the country’s leading human rights organisations shows.
The analysis undertaken by Ain-o-Salish Kendra found that out of a total of 507 deaths reported in the newspapers, at least 215 people were shot dead by law enforcement agencies in response to opposition protests and violent clashes.
In all but eight of these 215 deaths, ASK found that when the shooting took place, police were either operating alone or were working alongside the Border Guard Bangladesh, the Rapid Action Battalion or as part of a joint force.
Eight deaths are said by the human rights organisation to have been the sole responsibility of BGB.
Though ASK’s analysis itself does not apportion blame for the law
enforcement shootings, Sultana Kamal, the human rights organisation’s executive director, told New Age that she condemned any extrajudicial killing and demanded that ‘it must stop immediately.’
‘ASK holds a very strong stand against any extrajudicial act, particularly by state forces. ASK insists on resolution of conflict of all kinds and gravity through due judicial and constitutional process,’ she said.
In its annual report, published earlier this month, the international human rights organisation, Human Rights Watch stated that the Bangladesh ‘authorities often employed violent and illegal measures against protesters, and failed to initiate any investigations into credible allegations of unlawful deaths at the hands of its security forces.’
The government argues that law enforcement agencies use proportionate force in dealing with often very violent political protests.
ASK’s analysis was based on scrutinising reports published in 12 national newspapers, but did not involve undertaking any further investigations. The figures do not include 72 additional ‘extrajudicial killings’ which, earlier this month, ASK had reported had taken place during the year.
Apart from the 215 law enforcement agency shootings, ASK found that 96 deaths were the results of either inter-party or intra-party violence.
The analysis showed that 31 deaths resulted from clashes between the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, 13 deaths from clashes between the Jamaat and the AL, and 25 deaths involved internal disputes in the AL itself.
Many of the remaining 196 deaths appear to have been the direct results of opposition violence, though the ASK analysis does not provide details of how many of these deaths can be directly blamed on the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the Jamaat-e-Islami supporters or activists.
In November and December, about 40 members of the public were killed, many burnt to death in petrol bombs, apparently by opposition supporters and activists enforcing anti-election programmes.  The burn unit of Dhaka Medical College Hospital confirms that 25 people have so far died from burn injuries resulting from arson attacks on vehicles.
According to the ASK analysis, a total of 196 members of the public and 16 police officers died in the political violence throughout the year.
ASK’s archived newspaper files show that in February and March alone, which featured protests following the International Crime Tribunal’s convictions of Jamaat leaders Abdul Quader Molla and Delwar Hossain Sayedee, 108 people were reported to have died from shooting by security forces.

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