Bangladesh accused of ‘kneecapping’ opposition members

Government official rejects Human Rights Watch report, saying allegations against security forces are baseless.

Bangladesh militants killed
The government has been accused of failing to investigate alleged human rights abuses [Al Jazeera]

Security forces in Bangladesh have been accused by a rights group of “kneecapping” members and supporters of opposition parties by deliberately shooting them in the leg.

A new report released on Thursday by Human Rights Watch (HRW), quoted 25 victims recounting how they had been shot without provocation by police officers who then claimed that they had opened fire in self-defence.

But Asaduzzaman Khan, Bangladesh’s home minister, rejected the findings of the 45-page report, saying the allegations were baseless.

“This is not true,” Khan told AFP news agency. 

He also said that security forces had only shot at “criminals” when they “try to escape” or were in confrontation with police.

HRW said its report includes evidence and testimony from the 25 individuals, mostly members and supporters of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its ally Jamaat-e-Islami.

Several of the victims have been permanently disabled, including some who had their legs amputated after being shot, it said.

The New York-based group called on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government to invite the UN rights office and UN special rapporteurs on torture and extrajudicial executions to investigate the “kneecappings” and other alleged acts of torture.

Brad Adams, Asia director of HRW, said: “Security forces in Bangladesh have long killed detainees in fake ‘crossfire killings’, pretending the victim was killed when the authorities took him back to the scene of the crime and were attacked by one of his accomplices.”

“Now they’re adopting tactics similar to those once used by the Irish Republican Army and engaging in ‘kneecappings’ of people they have arrested, apparently because they belong to or support an opposition party.”

The Rapid Action Battalion, the special security force of the Bangladesh police, also denied the main findings of the report that were put to it before publication.

“We have not seen the report yet, but if it claims so, then definitely it is false, fabricated and baseless,” Mufti Mahmud Khan, a director and the spokesman of the unit, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Human rights groups have accused the Bangladeshi authorities of carrying out extra-judicial killings, disappearances and detaining suspects without charge and denying them access to a lawyer.

Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman, of the Asian Human Rights Commission, told Al Jazeera that over the past seven years there have been reports of about 300 enforced disappearances and 1,200 extrajudicial executions, with no real action from the government to investigate the alleged crimes.

“The situation is getting worse. Enforced disappearances are increasing every year,” he said, adding that the actual figures could be higher.

Khan rejected allegations of human rights violations, saying that his special security force arrested or held people only on the basis of specific allegations and evidence.

“We investigate the allegations with due legal process and also follow the legal norms and accordingly we take follow up measures as per country’s law,” Khan told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies