‘Domestic justice system requires reform to address extrajudicial executions’

Cases of extrajudicial executions are being frequently reported from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India, says the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) in an oral statement to the 29th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions. ALRC wished to bring to the attention of UNHRC about the fact that over the past four months happened in South Asian countries. It said, in addition to drone attacks by the United States in Pakistan that have killed civilians there, the armed forces and police in these three countries circumvent due process and engage in extrajudicial, summary, and arbitrary executions with impunity.

shootoutIn Bangladesh, political cadres affiliated with the ruling coalition, or criminals engaged by them, also undertake arbitrary executions of individuals, especially those critical of the

incumbent government. In Bangladesh, all forms of criticism against the government are brutally suppressed. This has made speaking against or reporting cases of extrajudicial execution a life-threatening exercise.

The fight against extremism and crime are the excuses the governments in India and Pakistan often cite for resorting to extrajudicial executions. Harsh legislations, like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, which is implemented in several regions of India, provide statutory impunity for extrajudicial executions, better known as “encounter killings” in South Asia.

The ALRC is of the opinion that each incident of extrajudicial execution is an example of the failure of the criminal justice process in the jurisdiction from where such cases are reported. The ALRC supports the opinion of the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, which holds that states should work hard to improve their domestic justice processes in order to reduce instances of grave human rights abuses like extrajudicial execution.

The ALRC wishes to bring to the attention of this Council that the domestic justice institutions in countries like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are not capable of protecting human rights, and are even less able to prevent state sponsored executive elimination of individuals.

The ALRC is of the view that generic recommendations, like “investigate, prosecute, and punish”, made to member states, will not end serious human rights abuses like extrajudicial executions. States like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh must review their domestic justice processes, to ensure that every accused is guaranteed fair trial.

The ALRC also wishes to encourage India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh to work closely with the UN Special Rapporteur, who has undertaken a commendable job after assuming office.