Bangladesh rejects rights group's criticism

AP News
Posted: May 11, 2011 3:30 AM
Bangladesh rejects rights group's criticism

Bangladesh has rejected an international human rights group's claim that the government's special anti-crime force is involved in torture of suspects and extrajudicial killings.

"The allegations are baseless. The special force acts only in self-defense. It does not kill anyone," Home Minister Sahara Khatun told reporters Wednesday responding to a report by New York-based Human Rights Watch.

In its report released in Dhaka on Tuesday, the rights group called for reform within six months of the Rapid Action Battalion, which it alleged has killed about 200 suspects since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took power 2009. It said the force should be disbanded within six months if not reformed.

The Rapid Action Battalion itself denounced the report as "baseless and one-sided."

"The force has been working under the laws of the land, and we are not above law," spokesman Wing Commander M. Sohail said.

Human Rights Watch said a total 732 suspects have been killed since the battalion was formed in 2004 under a previous government.

The special force usually describes such killings as the result of shootouts triggered by Islamist militant suspects who opened fire on battalion members.

The Muslim-majority nation of 150 million people has struggled with terrorism in recent years after the Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh group, which wants to establish strict Islamic law, bombed government offices and courts. The battalion captured the group's top leaders, who were later hanged.