Three men accused of rape have been found dead with notes from “Hercules” attached to their necks in Bangladesh, where police are investigating a potential serial-killing vigilante situation, according to local media reports.
Two of the victims had been accused of gang-raping a student from a religious school in Bhandaria on Jan. 14, according to the local newspaper The Daily Star. Another victim was one of four men accused of gang-raping a garment worker in Savar, outside the capital city of Dhaka, on Jan. 7. The two locations are approximately 270 kilometres apart.
All three have been found dead from bullet wounds in the last two weeks, with notes around their necks calling them rapists, according to multiple reports.
Rakib Hossain, 20, was found dead in the Rajapur region of Bangladesh on Friday, The Daily Star reports. Police said the suspect was found with bullet injuries to the head.
“I am Pirojpur Bhandaria’s … rapist Rakib,” said a note around the victim’s neck, according to a translation of the Bengali message in the Dhaka Tribune newspaper.
“This is the punishment for rape. Rapists beware. Hercules.”
The paper omitted the alleged rape victim’s name. Pirojpur Bhandaria is a region in southern Bangladesh.
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A spokesperson for the Rajapur police station confirmed the discovery in a statement to the Dhaka Tribune. “Locals informed the police after spotting the body. Police will further investigate the incident,” police spokesperson Jahidul Islam said. He added that police do not have any leads on a suspect.
Hossain was one of two men accused of gang-raping a young woman in Bhandaria, according to a report in The Statesman, an English-language daily based out of New Delhi, India.
The other suspect, 28-year-old Sajal Jomaddar, was found dead on Jan. 26. “I am Sajal. I am the rapist of (victim’s name). This is my punishment,” the note said, according to The Statesman.
Another accused rapist was found dead in Savar, outside the capital city of Dhaka, on Jan. 18. The 39-year-old victim, who was identified only as Ripon, had been accused of gang-raping a teenager with three others on Jan. 7, The Daily Star reports. The teenager was found dead the next day.
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Rape is the second-most common form of violence against females in Bangladesh, but victims rarely go to the police for justice, according to a 2015 special report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
“In Bangladesh, women’s access to justice and participation in political and public life are particularly affected by violence against women,” wrote report author Rashida Manjoo, a professor of public law at the University of Cape Town. She explained that limited resources, poor infrastructure and a lack of legal experts makes it hard for women to seek justice through the legal system.
A Thompson Reuters poll ranked India, Bangladesh’s western neighbour, as the most dangerous country in the world for women last year. Women in India face many of the same dangers as those in Bangladesh, such as sexual assault in public, according to the report.
Reuters ranked Dhaka as the seventh-most dangerous city for women in the world in 2017. It was also the fourth-worst city for women facing the risk of sexual violence. Karachi, Pakistan, ranked No. 1.
Police in Dhaka arrested 10 men last month in connection with the alleged rape of a woman who voted against the prime minister in Bangladesh’s December election.
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The woman’s husband told Reuters that a group of 10-12 men barged into their house in the southeastern district of Noakhali on the night of the election, tied up him and his four children inside the house, and assaulted her.
The husband said she was raped because she voted for the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
“We could not do anything,” the husband said from her hospital bedside, adding that he had received threats on his phone to withdraw the complaint with police.
—With files from Reuters