DHAKA, Dec 21: The US State Department, in its recently released country report on Bangladesh, has heavily criticized the government for “innumerable” human rights abuses and extra-judicial killings last year. “The government’s human rights record remained poor and it continued to commit numerous serious human rights abuses,” the report observes, alluding to extra-judicial killings by torture and abuse during police or army detention.

A total of 83 persons died as a result of the use of lethal force by the police and other security forces during the year, says the report titled “US Department of State — Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2002: Bangladesh”.

Fifteen of those deaths occurred during the army-led anti-crime drive — Operation Clean Heart — that began on October 16 last year. An additional 148 deaths occurred in custody, 31 of those following arrest and interrogation by the army during Operation Clean Heart, the report says.

The report also points out that the government’s initial explanation for such extra-judicial killings was “heart-attack” and “drowning while trying to escape” and that the principal information officer on November 18 suddenly took the position that there had been no deaths in army custody.

As a result of such practices, extra-judicial killings by security forces more than doubled in 2002, compared to the records from the previous year. Citing specific cases, the US State Department observed that “police routinely used torture, beatings, and other forms of abuse while interrogating suspects and frequently beat demonstrators”.

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