The Article 11 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh states that;

“The Republic shall be a democracy in which fundamental human rights and freedoms and respect for the dignity and worth of the human person shall be guaranteed [and in which effective participation by the people through their elected representatives in administration at all levels shall be ensured].”

After the presumed failure of civil administration, in the name of restoring law and order in the country, the government of Bangladesh has launched a military lead operation commonly refereed to as “Operation Clean Heart”. Thus far, the operation remained unaccountable and is based upon the vague institutional boundaries among the civil administration and military as well as without clear internal guidelines. There had been numerous reports of serious human rights violations such as extra judicial killings, deaths in custody, torture and arbitrary action by the military during this operation. Newspaper report of 26 deaths in custody and hundreds of people arrested arbitrarily by the authorities.

A recent incident brought to AHRC¡¯s attention is of the arrest, harassment and intimidation of journalists in Bangladesh by the military and police. The arrests came after an intimidation campaign by state security police against the journalists and their two assistants. Directors of the Bangladesh Centre for Development, Journalism and Communication (BCDJC) have been also under surveillance and threatened for helping the foreign journalists.

In the current scenario, major reason of human rights violation is the involvement of non-civilian institutions in civil administration in a democratically governed country. In reality, the situation has worsened by the fact that civil administration is in the hard work of legitimising the crimes such as extra judicial killings, deaths in custody resulted by torture [1] and human rights violations committed during the Operation. AHRC fears that this action will have serious consequences on the democratic institutions and poses a sever threat to the democracy in Bangladesh. At the same time, the situation seems to be indicating towards the use of state institutions in eliminating political rivalry [2].

Countries with the worst human rights record have some basic indicators that deny individuals their basic legal rights. For example establishment of military courts to deal with criminal matters; lack of understanding among political leadership of the country in realizing the difference in Civil Disorder and National Emergency; military and police having overlap of activities, and many more of this nature.

AHRC is deeply concerned about the current operation and in the light of rights guaranteed by the constitution of the republic; AHRC voices the following concerns of the public of Bangladesh and of the international community.

1. Applicable law requires that in administration of justice Police should deal with criminal offenses. What is the level of police involvement and what are the legal guidelines to deal with this situation?

2. If such operation has been launched under the presumption on the failure of civil administration, has the government made enough efforts in reforming the police?

3. Has the government exhausted all means to improve the situation?

4. Under which applicable legal framework Military has presumed such a role in Law and Order and administration of justice?

5. If there is some legitimacy in Military’s mandate in administration of justice, then what exactly is the role of Military and police in Bangladesh?

6. Simultaneously, the people of Bangladesh and the international community are interested in knowing the future planning of the government in the administration of justice.

7. Which internal procedure, guidelines or directions have been followed by the military during the Operation Clean Heart?

8. Who has determined the criminality of people arrested, tortured and killed during the course of so called law and order restoration?

9. The military arrests and the current practices imply that the state institutions have gone through the processes of proving the criminality of listed [3] individuals. Could the state make such information available to the public?

AHRC would appreciate if the relevant authorities take necessary measure to provide the public and the international community with the required information. In the absence of any answer, this operation is not only in violation of the applicable law of the country but is a serious breach of International Human Rights Law and international standards of the administration of justice.

As a regional Human Rights Network, AHRC appeals to the Bangladesh Judiciary and the international bodies to intervene and peruse an independent investigation into gross human rights violation committed by the state actors in Bangladesh.

[1] Death of an old man on November 2nd at the Tangail General Hospital is among the many others reported and UN reported cases.
[2] Arrest of Jatiya Party Leaders in Nilphamari District.
[3] The national newspapers use the term-listed terrorists.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : MR-25-2002
Countries : Bangladesh,
Issues : Military, Police violence,