Dhaka, July 29 (bdnews24.com) —The High Court on Sunday asked the government to explain why the indemnity from prosecution for the military officers and other law-enforcing personnel in the 'Operation Clean Heart' during the BNP-led government would not be declared illegal.
The bench of justices Mirza Hussain Haider and Kazi Mohammad Ejarul Haque Akondo also demanded why the indemnity law over the joint operation conducted by the armed forces, police and paramilitary forces would not be declared to be in conflict with the Constitution.
Z I Khan Panna, chief of the outgoing Bangladesh Bar Council's Human Rights and Legal Assistance Affairs, filed the writ petition.
The High Court ruling came around a decade after the operation was initiated. Advocate Shahdin Malik argued for the petitioner while Deputy Attorney General Al Amin Sarkar represented the state at the hearing.
Top bureaucrats of the law, home and defence ministries, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and Inspector General of Police have been directed to reply to the rule within six weeks.
The High Court also sought to know why a Tk 1 billion fund will not be raised to compensate those harmed during the operation.
Soon after the BNP-Jamaat-e-Islami coalition government took office, the military ran 'Operation Clean Heart' from Oct 16, 2002 to Jan 9, 2003 to 'restore' law and order.
Many people died during the operation slated by rights groups but the authorities claimed the deaths were due to 'heart attacks'.
Then the BNP-led coalition government claimed the operation was conducted to check terrorism, while chief opposition Awami League alleged it was to annihilate the opposition leaders and supporters.
According to New York-based Human Rights Watch, 60 people were killed during the operation. Then government admitted that 12 of the detained people died of 'heart attack'.
On Feb 24, 2003, the BNP-Jamaat government passed a law, providing indemnity to the military officials who took part in the special operation.
Lawyer Shahdin Malik told bdnews24.com Bangladesh had signed the international convention forbidding torture in 1998. Section 14 of the law talks about raising fund to compensate anyone harmed at the hand of the government forces.
He added the Supreme Court of India had also issued many orders on the issue.
Z I Khan told bdnews24.com: "This indemnity law is one of the darkest laws in the world. No other country has this type of laws... no civilised country can have such law. Having [this law] is a blatant disregard for the rule of law."