VII. Recommendations

Human Rights Watch urges immediate and effective measures to end torture and extrajudicial executions by RAB.  A caretaker government is currently in place until elections, set for January 2007.  The recommendations below address both this interim government and the future government that takes its place, as well as international actors in Bangladesh.

To the Caretaker Government of Bangladesh

  • During the election campaign, publicly instruct RAB, the police, and other law enforcement agencies to perform their duties in an objective and professional manner that does not favor any political party or partisan interest.
  • Issue immediate orders to the commanders of RAB and the police to treat all persons in custody in accordance with Bangladeshi and international standards that prohibit torture and respect the rights to due process and a fair trial.
  • Instruct RAB to respect the order from the High Court that it provide all detainees with adequate security at all times.  To guard against self-incrimination, persons in custody should not be returned to “crime scenes” except in the presence of their defense counsel.
  • Immediately suspend from RAB, the police, or military any individual for whom there exists credible evidence that he has committed torture or participated in the extrajudicial execution of a detainee, pending investigation.
  • Initiate prompt and impartial investigations into all cases of torture or deaths of detainees in the custody of RAB since June 2004.  Discipline or prosecute as appropriate all individuals, regardless of rank, found to be responsible for the death or torture of detainees.  This includes individuals who ordered such abuses and commanding officers who knew or should have known of such acts, and who failed to prevent or punish them.
  • Ban from participation in UN peacekeeping operations any individual from RAB, the police, or military whom the government identifies as having responsibility for serious human rights violations, pending investigation.

To the future Government of Bangladesh

  • Make strong and repeated public statements, at the highest institutional level, against unlawful killings and custodial abuse by RAB, and that all those responsible for abuses will be prosecuted.
  • Promptly and impartially investigate all deaths in the custody of the police, military, RAB, and other law enforcement agencies.
  • Prosecute to the fullest extent of the law all former and current RAB members of whatever rank who are responsible for unlawful killings, torture or other mistreatment. Similarly punish commanding officers who knew or should have known of such abuse, and who failed to prevent or punish it.
  • Establish an independent and impartial Commission of Inquiry to investigate the issue of serious human rights abuses by RAB, especially torture and extrajudicial executions, since RAB began full operations in 2004.  The commission should:

o Be composed of respected members of law enforcement, independent judges and lawyers, and members of Bangladesh’s human rights community;

o Include the active participation of independent international experts on law enforcement and human rights;

o Have full access to RAB records and other relevant government documents, as well as the power to subpoena;

o Provide witness protection as necessary;

o Have a time limit of no more than six months to complete its inquiry and present its report, with concrete recommendations on RAB reform;

o Have the power to make public statements during and after its inquiry, including on the government’s response to the commission’s recommendations; and

o Have the power at any time during its mandate to publicly recommend the immediate suspension, pending investigation, of any current or former RAB member implicated in serious human rights violations.

  • Duly consider and, wherever possible, promptly implement the recommendations from the Commission of Inquiry on RAB reform.
  • Publicly release detailed information on all arrests, prosecutions, and convictions against members of the RAB, the military, the police, and other law enforcement agencies for human rights violations.
  • Ban from participating in UN peacekeeping operations any former or current RAB member who has been disciplined or convicted for having committed a serious human rights violation.
  • Thoroughly vet all Bangladeshi military and police who apply for UN peacekeeping missions to ensure that they have not committed violations of human rights.
  • Adopt legislation that makes torture a specific criminal offense in accordance with article 1 of the Convention against Torture, with punishment that is commensurate with the crime.
  • Repeal all legal provisions that provide effective immunity to security forces.  These include sections 132 and 197 of the code of criminal procedure, which require sanction by the government for courts to consider any offence by a public servant on official duty, including members of the police and other security forces.
  • Amend the Armed Police Battalions Ordinance, 1979 and its 2003 amendment, which form the legal basis for RAB.  The law should abolish the special RAB tribunals to allow for greater transparency and accountability.
  • Promptly communicate information on persons taken into custody to relatives and legal counsel. Publicly provide information on the location of all places of detention; persons should only be held in officially recognized places of detention.
  • Provide detainees prompt access to legal counsel, medical personnel, and family members.
  • Allow nongovernmental human rights organizations improved access to stations of RAB and the police.
  • Develop a policy to provide compensation to the victims of RAB, police, or military abuse.
  • Establish a National Human Rights Commission, approved in April 1999, as the government has promised.
  • Establish an Ombudsman for law enforcement affairs, with a mandate to monitor and report on the work of RAB and the police.
  • Consistent with membership in the United Nations Human Rights Council, issue a standing invitation to all UN thematic rapporteurs and working groups to visit Bangladesh, particularly to examine torture and extrajudicial executions by RAB, the military, police, and other law enforcement agencies.

To Bangladesh’s International Partners and Donors

  • Refuse working with RAB on law enforcement or counterterror operations until the force ceases its use of torture and extrajudicial executions, promotes transparency, and pursues accountability for violations of human rights.
  • Refuse supporting training programs for RAB—unless specifically for human rights—until the force ends the pattern and practice of torture and extrajudicial executions.
  • Withhold material and financial assistance to Bangladesh’s security forces until RAB and the police take serious measures to end extrajudicial executions and to actively prosecute those implicated in torture and unlawful killings.
  • Do more to assist the long-term development of local groups with the capacity for independent monitoring of police and RAB abuses, for educating the public about responsibilities of law enforcement agencies and making vocal public demand for effective and lawful policing, and for helping victims obtain legal and medical services and navigate the public complaint process.
  • Continue to support efforts to promote independence of the judiciary.
  • Call for the creation of a Commission of Inquiry and support the commission’s work.

To the United Nations

  • The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) should thoroughly review the participation in peacekeeping operations of all Bangladeshi soldiers and police, including commanders, who have worked in RAB to ensure that they have not been responsible for ordering or tolerating serious human rights violations.