In December 2006, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report documenting torture and unlawful killings committed by Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), an elite anti-crime and anti-terrorism force. According to HRW, many of the deaths for which RAB is responsible resulted from summary executions or extreme physical abuse. The statistical analysis presented in the report, “Judge, Jury, and Death: Torture and Executions by Bangladesh’s Elite Security Force,” was conducted by Romesh Silva, a statistician who worked within the Benetech Human Rights Program at the time, and who now works with HRDAG.
While researching these incidents, HRW compiled a database of reported RAB killings based primarily on reports from Bangladeshi media, Bangladeshi human rights groups and HRW’s own research. Of the 367 reported killings, 77 percent (284/367) were reported as “crossfire” killings in which the victim was allegedly killed as a bystander to a gunfight and 11 percent (42/367) were described as “killings during shootouts” in which the victim allegedly took part in a shootout with the police. “Thanks to RAB operations,” reads the HRW report, “Bangladeshis commonly use the word ‘crossfire’ as a verb meaning to murder or kill.”
The data cited in the report concludes that the monthly rate of RAB killings climbed steeply in 2006 and identifies specific RAB battalions responsible for the majority of the deaths. The report concludes that there were an average of 11.7 RAB killings per month in 2004 and 10.3 per month in 2005 that were documented by the press and human rights groups. In the first nine months of 2006, the monthly rate jumped to 17.9 with the most deadly month occurring in June when RAB personnel reportedly killed 37 people. The data identify the specific RAB battalions responsible for the majority of the killings revealing that more than one quarter of all reported RAB killings, 25.6 percent, occurred in area of responsibility of RAB-6 operating in Khulna.
Benetech’s statistical analysis helped HRW explain the statistical patterns of the killings over time and with respect to the specific units with the RAB that were most responsible for the violence.