The arbitrary detention of the workers violates the ICCPR, to which Bangladesh is a state party, says Amnesty International
The Bangladeshi authorities must immediately release at least 370 Bangladeshi migrant workers who were arbitrarily detained between July and September following their return to the country, said Amnesty International.
In the fourth of a series of mass arrests of migrant workers for alleged criminal activity abroad, 32 people were detained in Dhaka on Sunday for "tarnishing the image of the country," due to their alleged imprisonment in Syria from where they had been deported, said the human rights organization in a press release issued on Thursday.
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In this, as with three other cases, no credible evidence of criminal wrongdoing has been shown nor have any charges been brought, the release added.
The arbitrary detention of the workers violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Bangladesh is a state party, said Amnesty International.
Addressing the issue, Director of the Office of the Secretary General at Amnesty International David Griffiths, said: “Not only have the Bangladeshi authorities failed to present any credible evidence of these workers’ reported crimes, but they have also failed to specify any criminal charges.
“These men and women are being arbitrarily detained in clear violation of Bangladesh’s human rights obligations.”
“With many now held in detention for several months, there is no time for further delay. The Bangladeshi authorities must either bring charges for internationally recognized criminal offences or release them immediately.”
The 32 workers were initially jailed in Syria while trying to reach Italy and other European countries. They returned to Bangladesh on 13 September and were placed in quarantine for two weeks before their arrest, after the Syrian government commuted their jail terms, read the release.
Between July and September, Bangladeshi police have jailed at least 370 returning migrant workers under Section 54 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrCP), which allows for arrest based on having “reasonable suspicion” that a person may have been involved in a criminal offence outside Bangladesh.
On 5 July 2020, 219 Bangladeshi workers who had returned from Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain since May were arrested and detained.
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According to the police application to a court in Dhaka, the returnees were in jails in those countries for committing “various offences,” which were not specified.
The workers were deported to Bangladesh after their sentences were commuted. A police request to detain the 219 for as long as an investigation continued to determine their offence was granted by the court.
This was followed on 21 July by the arrest of another 36 migrant workers who had returned from Qatar and, on 1 September, by the arrest of 81 migrant workers who had returned to the country from Vietnam and 2 others from Qatar, after being exploited by traffickers.
“The Bangladeshi police have effectively been given court permission to keep these workers in detention for as long as they like. There is no telling how long an investigation into hundreds of cases involving multiple countries may take. To keep people imprisoned without charge for such an indeterminate length of time is completely unacceptable,” added David Griffiths.