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Jasmine’s death in RAB custody not acceptable

28 March 2023
Jasmine’s death in RAB custody not acceptable

The death of Jasmine Sultana, a woman of 38, again reinforces the hard and dangerous fact that people are not safe in the hands of our law enforcing agencies when they are in their custody. One after another custodial deaths are taking place in absence of law enforcement and dispensing of justice. If at one instance it is in the hands of RAB, at another instance it is in the hands of the police itself.  This cycle goes on.

Jasmine, an employee of a Naogaon union parishad land office who was picked up on March 22 under the country's most controversial law, the Digital Security Act, was reportedly arrested "for siphoning off money from job seekers using a Facebook account". According to the victim's uncle, a former councillor of Naogaon Municipality, Jasmine was intercepted at the town's Muktir Mor by a microbus carrying RAB officers. After she was picked up, they were looking for her in various stations of RAB. Around noon that day, they heard that she was under treatment at Naogaon Sadar Hospital. A day later, she died. RAB-5 reported to the doctors who treated her at the hospital that she had suffered a fall resulting in brain haemorrhages which were the result of a stroke.  

Jasmine's relatives could not accept the RAB story of her death. Her son Shahed Hossain Saikat, a student of Chattogram University, complained that torture was the reason of her death and there was a mark of injury on her head. Obviously, two versions of the story surfaced and in the current justice system of Bangladesh, we would probably never know what actually caused Jasmine's death. Like many custodial deaths, Jasmine's will also remain buried in mystery.  

The record of the RAB is not a rosy one. Since this elite branch of law enforcing agency was formed with army officers as its officers, the RAB allegedly involved in numerous cases of human rights violations including extrajudicial killings and disappearances. In the past, some of its commanding officers acted as personal hit men and were convicted for committing this serious crime. The battalion soon earned notoriety in this regard that the US government last year slapped sanctions on the agency as well as seven of its officers.    

On the recent death of Jasmine, therefore, the victim's families as well as the concerned people in society have every right to assume that what RAB cited as the reason for her death is untrue. An impartial investigation into the incident would have revealed the true cause of death. But such an investigation is not likely.  

Legally the police custody, or RAB custody for that matter, should be the safest place both for the innocent as well as an alleged criminal, but in reality it is the most dangerous place now in the present Bangladesh.    

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