BANGLADESH: Open Letter to all civil society organizations working on Bangladesh on lessons to be learned from the brutal attack on FMA Razzak
The attempted eye gouging incident in at Paikgachha village, where a human rights defender and journalist, FMA Razzak and his brother were attacked by a about 40 persons mobilized by a major in Bangladesh army, Mustafizur Rahman Bokul, is a painful experience to all. It is necessary to learn from this experience so that effective actions can be taken to address the very serious threats to everyone that are manifest through this extraordinarily inhumane attack.
There were glaring inefficiencies and carelessness in the police conduct prior to this incident, during and after the incident. Razzak complained to the police about the harassment from Major Mustafizur Rahman Bokul's family for months. However, the police failed make any reasonable intervention. (For details of police neglect please see: www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-OLT-005-2011). It is the duty of the police to enforce the law and to keep the peace and when it fails to do so violence and chaos are the inevitable result. Everyone we have talked to over this incident expressed their frustration and disappointment with the way policing system is functioning in Bangladesh. Police reform therefore is one of the major tasks that need to be achieved in Bangladesh.
One of the things revealed in dealing with Razzak's case is the absence of facilities to make complaints against the failures of the police. In most countries there are official channels open for making complaints against erring police officers. A citizen in Bangladesh who faces problems due to actions or omissions of the police has no avenue to bring this to the higher authorities and to get the services that one is entitled to. This creates helplessness among the victims. The creation of a mechanism to receive and to investigate into complaints against police is a dire need in the country if police indiscipline is to be brought under control.
The attack on Razzak took place on the 29th of April. Despite complaints made locally and by international organizations, to date (11 May), no one has yet recoded a statement from Razzak. We learned that there is no police post attached to hospitals and hospitals do not take it as their obligation to report to a police station when the victim of a crime is brought to a hospital. This is a serious defect that necessarily has serious adverse effects on criminal investigations.
A further shocking deficiency is the lack of facilities for forensic examination. Despite serious injury to his eyes and legs no judicial medical officer has examined Razzak or his brother. It appears that such an examination is very unlikely. We have learned that it is only at the Dhaka Medical College and laboratory that such an examination is possible, but that happens only if the police take the victim there. Without such forensic examination, valuable evidence that could be brought before courts is lost. Only criminals benefit from this absence of forensic examinations.
We also saw how widespread the practice of fabricating cases is. With the help of the police, anyone can file a fabricated case and get their opponents arrested and remanded. Fabricated charges are also filed by powerful persons who face charges for serious crimes, with the expectation of trying to settle one case as a bargain for the other. Such bargaining corrupts the system of justice and places victims of serious crimes in a severely disadvantageous position.
In attempting to help the victims in this case we found fear everywhere and an all pervading sense of futility in pursuing justice. We were often told that the military has such influence on everything that it is pointless to demand investigations into crimes if one of the perpetrators is from the military. We were also told that a police-military nexus exists and ordinary citizens are in a helpless situation.
The judicial system can also be manipulated by unscrupulous police and other powerful persons. There is no easy access to justice. Citizens like Razzak who face such grave injustices are caught up in a Kafkaesque situation.
Despite such odds, Razzak and many others are struggling for justice. Despite widespread fear, many citizens come forward to protect people from injustice and assist victims such as Razzak and others. Hope lies with these ordinary folk who are trying to face up to a difficult problem.