Friday, 10 December 2010

BSF routinely kills on border : US-based rights body spurs Dhaka to protect its nationals

Friday, December 10, 2010

Diplomatic Correspondent

Indian border security force (BSF) routinely gun down civilians crossing the border with Bangladesh despite negligible evidence of any crime, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released yesterday.

Over 900 Bangladeshi nationals have been killed by the BSF over the last decade, many of them when they crossed into Indian territory for cattle rustling or other smuggling activities.

However, in several cases “we also found that Bangladeshi nationals were injured or killed due to indiscriminate firing from across the border”, the report said.

HRW found no evidence in any death it documented that the person was engaged in any activity that would justify such an extreme response.

The rights body said the Bangladesh government should vigorously protect the right to life of its citizens, even those who may be involved in illegal trade, and should call upon the Indian government to exercise restraint.

The Indian government should prosecute BSF soldiers responsible for serious human rights abuses, the rights group said.

The 81-page report, “Trigger Happy: Excessive Use of Force by Indian Troops at the Bangladesh Border,” documents the situation on the border region, where both Bangladesh and India have deployed border guards to prevent infiltration, trafficking, and smuggling.

It said the BSF--responsible for guarding against extremists, drug and weapons smugglers and human traffickers--is instead using its muscle to detain, torture and kill with impunity, according to HRW, the New York-based rights group.

HRW found numerous cases of indiscriminate use of force, arbitrary detention, torture, and killings by the security force, without adequate investigation or punishment.

The report is based on over 100 interviews with victims, witnesses, human rights defenders, journalists, law-enforcement officials, and BSF and Bangladesh Rifles' (BDR) members, said a press release of the HRW.

The report said border officials are required to exercise restraint and “act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence.” It suggested India and Bangladesh should take immediate steps to end the killing of hundreds of their citizens at the West Bengal-Bangladesh border by BSF.

“The border force seems to be out of control, with orders to shoot any suspect,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director at HRW. "The border operations ignore the most basic rule of law, the presumption of innocence."

HRW said since both Indians and Bangladeshis have fallen prey to this excessive use of force, both governments need to open a joint independent investigation to turn the situation around.

“Human Rights Watch has repeatedly called upon the Indian government to prosecute those responsible for human rights violations instead of letting its security forces get away with murder,” Ganguly said. “The BSF insists that there are internal investigations, but why then is it so unwilling to reveal whether anyone has been punished for these killings.”

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