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End disappearances and secret detentions, HRW urges Bangladesh govt

  • Published at 11:10 am July 6th, 2017
  • Last updated at 10:03 pm July 6th, 2017
End disappearances and secret detentions, HRW urges Bangladesh govt
The law enforcement authorities in Bangladesh have illegally detained hundreds of people including scores of opposition activists since 2013, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released on Thursday. The 82-page report titled, 'We Don’t Have Him: Secret Detentions and Enforced Disappearances in Bangladesh,' says at least 90 people were victims of enforced disappearance in 2016 alone. HRW urged the Bangladesh government to end the "widespread practice" of enforced disappearances. "(It must) order prompt, impartial, and independent investigations into these allegations, provide answers to families, and prosecute security forces responsible for such egregious rights violations," the report said. HRW claimed most of the detainees were produced in court after "weeks or months" of secret detention, but it also documented 21 cases of detainees who were later killed, and nine others whose whereabouts remain unknown. According to the report, the 90 cases include three sons of prominent opposition politicians who were picked up over several weeks in August 2016; one was released after six months of secret detention, while the other two remain disappeared. [arve url="https://www.youtube.com/embed/OKChMkKUAo8"/] In the first five months of 2017, 48 disappearances were reported. There are allegations of severe torture and ill-treatment while in secret custody. “The disappearances are well-documented and reported, yet the government persists in this abhorrent practice with no regard for the rule of law,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Bangladesh security forces appear to have a free hand in detaining people, deciding on their guilt or innocence, and determining their punishment, including whether they have the right to be alive.”
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The report also documents the continuing disappearance of 19 opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) activists. The 19 men were picked up by law enforcement authorities in eight separate incidents over a two-week period in or around Dhaka in the weeks before the January 2014 elections. Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 100 people, including family members and witnesses, to document these cases. Details of police complaints and other legal documents are included in the report. The Bangladesh authorities failed to respond to letters seeking their views on these cases. Witnesses and family members told Human Rights Watch that most of the abuses were carried out by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) or the Detective Branch of the police (DB), both of which have long-recorded histories of abuse. In the case of the 19 opposition party members, witnesses said that eight were taken by RAB, six by DB, and the rest by unknown security forces. Ruhul Amin Chowdhury, who saw RAB take away his son, Adnan Chowdhury, on December 5, 2013, said he had trusted RAB to release his son the next day. “They said, ‘We are taking him. We will bring him back,’” he said. “They betrayed us.” The HRW report also says a senior RAB official privately admitted to family members of Sajedul Islam Sumon, a well-known local BNP leader who disappeared on December 4, 2013, that he had had Sumon and five other men in his custody, but that they were removed by other RAB officials after he refused orders to kill them. The official assumed the six men had all been killed. Law enforcement authorities repeatedly deny the arrests, with government officials backing these claims, often by suggesting that the men are voluntarily in hiding, Human Rights Watch said. The police do not allow families to file complaints alleging that their relatives have been picked up by law enforcement authorities. In addition to enforced disappearances, there is an alarming trend of deaths occurring in secret detention of state authorities. In one such case, on June 13, 2016, Shahid Al Mahmud, a student activist of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, was “dragged outside [his house] and taken into a black microbus,” his father, Rajab Ali, told Human Rights Watch. Rajab Ali said that police officers were present during the arrest, although they later denied they were holding his son. Two weeks later, on July 1, police said they found Shahid’s body after a gunfight with criminals. Shahid’s father told Human Rights Watch that the police are lying: “The police abducted my son and staged a ‘gunfight’ drama to justify the killing.” [caption id="attachment_72914" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Family members of forced disappearance victims and rights activists form a human chain in front of the National Press Club. The photo was taken in 2014 Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune Family members of forced disappearance victims and rights activists form a human chain in front of the National Press Club. The photo was taken in 2014 Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune[/caption] Although the ruling Awami League party came to power in 2009 with a promise of “zero tolerance” for human rights violations, the practice of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances has persisted, with human rights organizations reporting at least 320 cases of disappearances since 2009. These include people suspected of criminal activities and militancy, as well as political opposition members. Under international law, a forced disappearance is the deprivation of liberty by agents of the state, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law. The Bangladesh government should invite the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate these allegations and make appropriate recommendations to ensure justice, accountability, and security force reform, Human Rights Watch said. The Bangladesh government should also invite UN experts, including the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and the special rapporteur on torture, for an official country visit, allowing them full, unimpeded access to the places and people they seek to visit. “The Bangladesh government is making a habit of complete disregard for human rights, human life, and the rule of law,” Adams said. “The government doesn’t even bother denying these abuses, instead remaining silent and relying on silence from the international community in return. This silence needs to end.” Here is the full report of Human Rights Watch- [arve url="https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9GmNBYfDs64M085WGtURHRzSUk/preview"/]