Amnesty: Bangladesh must end killings by police force

Members of Rapid Action Battalion inspect a burnt garment factory in Ashulia, Bangladesh, on 15 December 2010 The Rapid Action Battalion was set up in 2004 to combat crime and terrorism

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Rights group Amnesty International has accused the Bangladeshi government of unlawful killings by its special police force, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).

In a new report, the group has urged the government to honour their pledge to end extrajudicial executions.

The force has been implicated in the killing of at least 700 people since its inception in 2004, the report says.

The government has yet to respond to the Amnesty report.

RAB justifies the killings as accidental or as a result of officers acting in self-defence.

But, in reality, many victims are killed following their arrest, the Amnesty report alleges.

In a report in May, Human Rights Watch too catalogued a series of human rights violations blamed on the elite force in the past few years.

The government has always denied the accusations against RAB.

'Unlawful killings'

"Hardly a week goes by in Bangladesh without someone being shot by RAB with the authorities saying they were killed or injured in 'crossfire' or a 'gun-fight'," Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International's Bangladesh researcher, said.

"However the authorities choose to describe such incidents, the fact remains that they are suspected unlawful killings."

The group says investigations into the killings are either carried out by RAB or a government-appointed judicial body and they have never resulted in prosecution.

It says that RAB has consistently denied responsibility for unlawful killings and the authorities have accepted their claims.

Former detainees also told Amnesty International that they were tortured in custody, suffering beatings, food and sleep deprivation, and electric shocks.

The report says that at least 200 alleged RAB killings have occurred since January 2009 when the Awami League government came to power, despite Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's pledge to end extrajudicial killings.

In the past the authorities have said the police force only acts against "criminals" and most deaths occur during shoot-outs between them and law enforcers.

Over the years, RAB has developed a fearsome reputation while at the same time being credited with reducing crime and acting against Islamist militancy.

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