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Bangladesh: Fatwa Killing Sparks High Court Inquiry, Directives

(Feb. 17, 2011) A recent rape and subsequent fatwa killing in Bangladesh have prompted the country's High Court to investigate the incident and to issue several directives requiring the government to take action.

Last year, the High Court issued a ruling declaring all forms of extrajudicial punishments illegal. (See Shameema Rahman, Bangladesh: Religious Edicts Declared Illegal, GOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (July 22, 2010), //

According to newspaper reports, a 15-year-old girl was raped by her 40-year-old cousin and then physically tortured by the rapist's wife and brother-in-law. The incident was reported to local religious leaders, who prescribed a punishment of 101 lashes for the victim and 200 lashes for the rapist. (The rapist negotiated his sentence down to 100 lashes.) The sentence was executed on January 23, 2011. After receiving about 60 lashes, the victim fell unconscious and was admitted to a hospital. Six days later, the hospital released her in response to pressure from her family. She died on January 31.

The victim's father then filed charges with the local police against the perpetrators. The original autopsy report did not include evidence that the victim was tortured, and the validity of the autopsy was called into question. The High Court became involved, issuing an order for the body of the victim to be re-examined and summoning the doctors and nurses who contributed to the autopsy report to appear before the court regarding the investigation. (Exhume Hena's Body, HC Orders, DAILY STAR (Feb. 7, 2011),

Following the High Court order, a new autopsy report was prepared, which found that the victim died of extensive external and internal injuries. After receiving the second autopsy report, the High Court, on February 11, issued a number of directives to the government. It ordered that a new case be filed with charges of rape, abduction, unlawful assembly, conspiracy, and torture. The High Court ordered that specific charges be filed against the organizers of the fatwa. (The original case filed by the victim's father will proceed simultaneously.) It also ordered the government to investigate the reason for the discrepancies between the two autopsy reports. It ordered the government to provide necessary security for the victim's family. Lastly, the High Court ordered the government to run a campaign directed at all religious institutions and local union councils across the country identifying illegal fatwas as criminal in nature. (Fresh Case to Add 5 More Charges, DAILY STAR (Feb. 11, 2011),