The High Court’s full verdict declaring illegal the indemnity to those involved in the three-month ‘Operation Clean Heart’ during the BNP-Jamaat-e-Islami’s 2001-06 tenure has been published.
The full verdict was uploaded on the Supreme Court’s website on Monday. The bench of Justice Moyeenul Islam Chowdhury and Justice Md Ashraful Kamal issued the verdict on Sep 13 2015.
Justice Chowdhury has written the main part of the verdict. Justice Kamal agreed with Justice Chowdhury and expressed some of his own views on the case in the full verdict.
About the Act indemnifying the persons involved with the ‘Operation Clean Heart’, the High Court said in the full verdict: “From the discussions made above and regard being had to the facts and circumstances of the case, we find that the impugned Act No. 1 of 2003 is not a valid piece of legislation and it is liable to be declared void abinitio and ultra vires the Constitution.”
Soon after the BNP-Jamaat 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 that the authorities claimed were due to ‘heart attacks’ but rights groups described them as ‘extra-judicial executions’.
The BNP-led coalition government claimed the operation was conducted to check terrorism, while the 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. The 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.
Supreme Court lawyer ZI Khan Panna challenged the law on Jun 14, 2012.
On Jul 29 that year, the High Court issued a rule asking the government to explain why the indemnity would not be declared ‘illegal’ and ‘conflicting’ with the Constitution.
The High Court on Sep 23 2015 issued the verdict making the rule absolute. In the full verdict, the judges observed, “Parliament cannot make any law contrary to the fundamental rights as enshrined in Part III of the Constitution.”
It had also asked why a Tk 1 billion fund should not be raised by the government to compensate the families of the victims.
In the full verdict, the court said the government does not need to raise the compensation fund. “During the period of the ‘Operation Clean Heart’, nobody did lodge or file any specific case against any personnel of the joint forces, nor did anybody claim any compensation from the Government on account of their unlawful actions. So the Government is not bound to pay or provide compensation to the victims of brutalities or to the dependants of the deceased in case of custodial deaths,” it observed.
It also ordered to allow the dependants or the families of the victims affected by the actions of the security forces during the operation to file civil and criminal cases and also move the High Court if needed.
“Besides, the State may take necessary steps for enactment of a law like the Philippines Human Rights Victims’ Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 so as to provide for reparation and recognition to the victims/affected persons of human rights violations during the ‘Operation Clean Heart’, if deemed fit and proper,” the court observed.