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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 May, 2005, 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
Bangladesh custody deaths probed
By Waliur Rahman
BBC News, Dhaka

Bangladesh is to investigate the deaths of more than 100 people in the custody of its elite anti-crime force, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).

The decision was taken at a ministerial meeting after concerns expressed by the country's aid donors over what they fear may be extra-judicial killings.

RAB officials say the people died in genuine military encounters.

But the European Union expressed "serious concern" on Sunday, echoing views given by the United States.

US Assistant Secretary for South Asian Affairs, Christina Rocca, is expected to raise the issue during her current visit to Dhaka.


Bangladesh Home Minister Lutfozzaman Babar said after the ministerial meeting: "We will conduct an executive enquiry into the incidents and the investigation process will start shortly."

The RAB says those who died were criminals killed in encounters sparked by information gained from previously arrested accomplices.

Ministers in the past had argued that the human rights of the general public were more important than those of criminals killed in crossfire.

Bangladeshis are sharply divided over the role of the RAB in curbing violent crime.

Some are happy to see criminals killed because they believe they are often acquitted by the courts due to lack of evidence.

But others say the constitution allows everyone to seek justice and the state must follow constitutional rules.

Some experts say criminals could be more successfully dealt with if the country's archaic criminal justice system were reformed.

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