Md. Kamal Uddin

PhD defended at: 

City Univesity of Hong Kong, Hong Kong



This thesis is about human rights and law enforcement in Bangladesh, with special focus on the human rights violations committed by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). Bangladeshi policing, particularly through its reliance on military and paramilitary forces, has become highly militarized, particularly with the establishment of the RAB in 2004. The RAB was created as an anti-crime and anti-terrorist elite force, and to help the regular police force handle with critical situations of law enforcement. However, since its inception, this special elite force has been criticized for violating human rights through extrajudicial killings in the form of “crossfire,” abductions, forced disappearances and tortures.
This study’s theoretical development and empirical analysis focus on three key factors of human rights violations in policing: 1)Militarization of policing, approximated by the degree of application of military personnel, military philosophy and the recourse to military-controlled policing for maintaining public security;using advanced military training and weapons in policing; extension of military language and military style in appearance in policing and using aggressive tools and tactics in policing2) A culture of impunity, indicated by the extent of the freedom from punishment for human rights violations that denies effective remedies for victims, allows law enforcement agencies responsible for human rights violations to use corrupt practices, prevents the government’s obligation to investigate, and makes it difficult to bring perpetrators to justice and 3) Corruption, estimated by the degree of misuse of entrusted power, such as an illegal act that involves abuses of public office for political gain, misuses of government machinery, particularly law enforcement agencies for implementing the political agenda of the ruling elite, misuses of political power for denying a fair trial, and abuses of entrusted power for private gain. The thesis links between three factors and inter-relates the causal factors together to elaborate a theoretical framework in which the phenomenon can be analysed. It adds six propositions explaining the causal relations between these three concepts and specifies the pathways by which each contributes to human rights violations. In this thesis, I argue that the militarization of Bangladeshi policing, a culture of impunity and a high degree of corruption combine to contribute to violation of human rights in Bangladesh.
This dissertation investigates how and why the RAB is engaged in committing human rights violations in Bangladeshi policing based 75 interviews of different stakeholders. The four empirical chapters of the thesis employ qualitative techniques of data analysis in order to process the body of evidence collected during the fieldwork. The thesis also provides a detailed analysis of selected 20 cases, which together offer a comprehensive picture of the variety of human rights abuses in which the RAB has engaged over the years. The cases were selected for their significance in relation to the analytical framework and the considerable media and public attention they received. It provides a descriptive account of the selected cases in order to compare them from various perspectives. It makes it possible to explore further key factors of human rights violations in Bangladesh. The ineffectiveness and partisan role played by the state institutions lends support to the argument that militarization of policing, politicisation, corruption and a culture of impunity are at the principle problem.
This thesis also touches upon issues of politics, culture and institutional challenges that contribute to abuse of human rights in Bangladesh. The problem is exacerbated by the lack of effectiveness of the state institutions, particularly the judiciary, Anti-Corruption Commission, and National Human Rights Commission. Issues of collusion between criminals and political leadership and lack of accountability of law and order agencies are raised to explain additional causes of human rights abuses in Bangladesh.
Finally, this study outlines some policy implications designed to assist efforts by policy-makers and other stakeholders seeking to reform Bangladesh into a country founded on the rule of law and the respect of human rights.