Human Rights Watch (HRW) has asked the Bangladesh government to halt mass trial of the suspected mutineers of Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) (renamed as Border Guard Bangladesh) following the 2009 bloody munity.
The New York-based body has also proposed the formation of a new non-military force after abolishing the elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), accusing it of extrajudicial killings and human rights abuses.
It called on the government to establish “an independent investigative and prosecutorial task force with sufficient expertise, authority, and resources” to rigorously investigate and prosecute allegations of human rights abuses after the BDR mutiny.
The 57-page report, released in Dhaka on Wednesday by Brad Adams, Asia director of the HRW, provides a detailed account of the mutiny. It documents serious abuses in its aftermath, including torture by security forces of the 6,000 suspects – in custody on suspicion of planning the mutiny – and the ongoing concerns about them receiving a fair trial .
“Mass trials like these simply cannot provide justice for victims, or real answers about who was responsible for the terrible crimes committed during the mutiny,” HRW said claiming that the suspects had been subjected to widespread abuse, torture, and death in custody.
“Those responsible for the horrific violence that left 74 (mostly military officers) dead should be brought to justice, but not with torture and unfair trials,” said Mr. Adams. He termed as “proportionate” the government’s initial response to the mutiny saying it saved lives by refusing the army permission to use overwhelming force in a heavily populated area. “But since then it has essentially given a green light to the security forces to exact revenge through physical abuse and mass trials.”
About 4,000 people have already been found guilty by military tribunals, all in mass trials, it said.
HRW demanded that authorities form a non-military unit or new force within the police by disbanding the anticrime elite force RAB. The new force should consider human rights as its core value to fight against crime and terrorism, Mr. Adams suggested. The rights body also called upon the government to close “all unofficial and secret places of detention”.
According to HRW, at least 47 border guards have died in custody because of “torture like beatings and giving electric shocks in custody”.
A total of 74 people, including 57 army officers were killed, and a number of army wives allegedly faced sexual violence in the mutiny that broke out on February 25, 2009, at the BDR’s central Dhaka headquarters in Pilkhana . The newly elected government – led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina – chose to negotiate a settlement rather than send in a heavily armed response demanded by the army to quell the mutiny.