by Abdus Sattar Patwary
The matter was brought into the limelight by BBC-Bangla, which enjoys repute of prolific journalism and never running after baseless stories.
According to BBC-Bangla, an officer of Bangladeshi elite force, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) accorded a two-hour long interview (secretly) to Swedish Radio, where he gave detailed description of forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings committed by RAB under the instructions of ‘top brasses’ of the elite force.
Millions of listeners of BBC-Bangla started copying the transcript of this news from it’s website and spread it in the social media, including Facebook, Twitter etc.
Being terrified by the media exposure, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) demanded rebanding of RAB, although BNP created this elite force in 2004 for combating militancy and terrorism.
During past 13 years, RAB has shown excellent performance in combating militancy and terrorism. But, all of it’s glorious track records had now been seriously dented by the shocking and bone-chilling facts provided by the RAB officer in his interview to the Swedish Radio.
More disturbing news is, according some people, at least four of such narrative interviews had already been given either by the same officer of RAB or other officers to the western media, and one of such is a video interview awaiting broadcast in a leading news channel in the west.
It is anticipated that a syndicated propaganda is possibly in offing against RAB. Such media exposures would certainly tarnish the image of the country internationally.
But of course, it is responsibility of the Bangladesh government and RAB first to prove, this elite force or other law enforcing agencies are not engaged in heinous crimes such as forced disappearance and extrajudicial killings. Even they will have to prove what the RAB officer told about crossfire to the Swedish Radio is also baseless. Only a mere statement trashing the contents of the interview won’t serve the purpose, especially at a time when reports of crossfire are almost routinely appearing in local media.
Allegation of RAB’s involvement in extrajudicial killings got solid grounds when three officers of Bangladesh Armed Forces, who were on deputation in RAB were handed-down death penalty by a court on January 16, 2017.
According to allegations pressed by the prosecution, these officers killed seven people in Narayanganj district in 2014 in exchange of a large amount of money. One of the condemned convicts, Lt Col Tarek Sayeed (retired) is the former Commanding Officer or RAB-11 and the son-in-law of Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, a senior leader of the ruling Bangladesh Awami League, and a minister.
This particular case of handing-down capital punishment to these RAB officers stands as a strong evidence proving extrajudicial killing are taking place in Bangladesh. It even proves, RAB officers are killing people in exchange of money. What does that mean? Has RAB already turned into a mafia gang or band of culprits?
Authorities may try to label the Narayanganj seven murders as an isolated incident or crimes committed by some bad or rogue officers of RAB. In that case, anyone may raise questions – how many of such ‘isolated’ incidents or ‘criminal acts’ of bad cops are yet to be exposed?
The pattern of the Narayanganj seven murders absolutely match with the description of forced disappearances and extrajudicial killing, as narrated by the RAB officer in his interview to the Swedish Radio.
The Narayanganj seven murders caught everyone’s attention when seven bodies were found floating in the Shitalakhya river. Someone may now ask – how many of such bodies or remains still are lying in the bed of the same river or other rivers in Bangladesh, and even the Bay of Bengal. How many bodies might have been secretly buried or burnt by the ‘bad cops’.
We all know, forced disappearance and extrajudicial killing are considered as crime against humanity, which can be tried in the International Court of Justice.
If Narayanganj seven murders case will finally be proved as act of bad cops, this can be equally considered as murders committed by the officers of RAB. Although it was portrayed as contract killings, there had been no recovery of even a part of the claimed millions of Taka paid to the officers of RAB. There is no forensic report of the bodies. Was it really murders or extrajudicial killing or just a serious conspiracy against RAB?