Bangladesh joins the world in observing the Human Rights Day today with continued incidents of enforced disappearance, extrajudicial killing, torture and unlawful detention in the country.
Rights activists said on Saturday that such abuses of rights were going unabated with impunity as the government continued to ignore or bypass the situation.
They said that the government should launch ‘credible investigation’ into each of the complaints lodged or raised by the victim or their families.
Former National Human Rights Commission chairman Mizanur Rahman said that enforced disappearance was the prime issue of rights abuse and extrajudicial killing, unlawful detention and torture were major concerns.
The issue of enforced disappearance once again grabbed the headlines following the disappearance of anti-extremism analyst Mubashar Hasan Caesar, also a North South University political science teacher, after emerging from a meeting at the UNDP country office at Agargaon in Dhaka on November 7.
On December 4, former diplomat Muhammed Maroof Zaman, who served Qatar and Vietnam as ambassador, went missing while going to Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport to pick his daughter.
At about 7:45pm, he called home from an unidentified number and informed house helps that some people would come to take his computer. CCTV footage showed that shortly after the phone call, three men went to his house at about 8:05pm. They took his laptop, home computer’s CPU, camera, and a smart-phone.
A general diary was filed by his daughter on December 5 with the Dhanmondi police station.
Police officials said they were still in search of him.
According to rights organisation Odhikar, at least 408 individuals were subjected to enforced disappearance between January 2009 and November 2017.
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development said in a statement, ‘Enforced and involuntary disappearance remains a crucial human rights violation in Bangladesh.’
Politicians, students and business people were worst victims of disappearance with whereabouts of 152 still unknown since the Awami League government assumed power in 2009 with an election pledge stating, ‘Rule of law will be established…Human rights will be strictly enforced.’
Rights and civic groups continued criticising the government for its failure to find out the victims and to identify the perpetrators.
Of those reported disappearances, 165 were reported between January 2016 and October 2017 and 237 in the first seven years of the AL government.
Of the disappearances, 2 occurred in 2009, 18 in 2010, 31 in 2011, 26 in 2012, 54 in 2013, 39 in 2014, 66 in 2015, 91 2016 and 74 in 2017 until October.
The highest 91 cases of enforced disappearances were reported in 2016 while 74 cases were reported in 10 months in 2017, Odhikar recorded.
‘I have not seen my brother Shajedul Islam Sumon for four years since he was picked up along with others from Bashundhara residential area … we will remind people on the Human Rights Day again that we are yet to find my brothers,’ said Sanjida Islam Tulee, campaigning for families of the victims of disappearance.
Mizanur said that it was the state’s responsibility to find out each of the victims otherwise the trend such abuses would continue with impunity.
He also said that sense of insecurity still persisted in the society.
Odhikar in a statement said that the civil and political rights of the people were being violated through the creation of a shrinking ‘democratic space’ and deprivation of the right to freedom of expression and association and even the right to life while and the justice delivery system became dysfunctional.
According to Odhikar, 1,963 people became victim to extrajudicial killing between 2001 and February 2017 in the name of the ‘crossfire’ and ‘gunfight’.
On Friday, Saddam Hossain, 25, a candlelight businessman in Gazipur and Al Amin, 35, of Mathbaria in Pirojpur, an occasional trader at Atipara village of Abdullahpur in Gazipur, were killed in a gunfight at Aftabnagar of Badda in Dhaka. The police said both of them were suspects in shooting a recruiting agent at his office at Banani on November 14.
Saddam’s family said that people in plainclothes picked up him on November 24 when he was attending a family gathering in Comilla.
The family alleged that Al Amin was picked up by ‘Detective Branch from Dhaka’ when he was taking meal at a restaurant in Gazipur on December 2. Al Amin’s widow Khadiza Begum said that they went to the Detective Branch office in Minto Road and ‘one source’ informed them about the ‘gunfight’ Friday morning.
Before assuming power in 2009, the Awami League in its manifesto declared, ‘Genuine independence and impartiality of the judiciary will be ensured. Extrajudicial killings will be stopped.’
National Human Rights Commission chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque said that the government’s successes in development work were overshadowed by the alarming trends of human rights abuses.
Law minister Anisul Huq on many occasions said that stern action would be taken against perpetrators of extrajudicial killings and tortures as those hindered the establishment of rule of law.
‘We have taken initiative to investigate such cases reported in dailies,’ he told a public function in Dhaka.
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina in her message marking the Human Rights Day said, ‘As a state-party to all major human rights instruments and as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, Bangladesh has been actively contributing towards the promotion and protection of human rights for all.’
Right activist Nur Khan Liton, however, said that the investigation was a must as the rights situation was ‘terrible.’
Odhikar said that Between 2004 and 2017, 590 individuals were tortured in custody and it was not clear of how many people were kept in unlawful detention but many victims including high profile politicians complained that they were kept in ‘custody’ without producing in the court in time.
‘We see rising hostility towards human rights and those who defend them by people who want to profit from exploitation and division. We see hatred, intolerance, atrocities and other crimes. These actions imperil us all,’ said António Guterres, the secretary general of United Nations on the occasion of Human Rights Day.
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