Families and victims of enforced disappearance, extrajudicial killings and custodial torture at a ‘public hearing’ in Dhaka on Saturday narrated their ordeals and demanded independent investigations into the cases.
Politicians, academics and rights activists at the public hearing said that justice must be done one day, when none of the officials now enjoying impunity due to political blessing would be spared.
They said that political dissenters were the worst victims and politicians were targeted irrespective of ideologies.
They also criticised ‘civil society’ members for not being sympathetic to sufferings of hundreds of people across the country.
About 90 families and victims, who faced repressions or attacks during the back-to-back tenure of the Awami League-led government, attended the public hearing at the National Press Club organised by ‘Mayer Daak,’ (mother’s call), a platform of victim families of enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killing.
Carrying portraits of the victims, the families described how their near and dear ones were picked up and in many cases how their bullet-hit bodies were found dumped while the rests were never found.
Victims of torture also narrated how police tortured them and shot at the leg to silence dissent voice.
‘Hello police uncle, please return my father, I want to go out with him,’ minor-girl Ridhi Hossain said with timid voice. Her father Parvez Hossain along with 18 other opposition activists became victim to enforced disappearance in December 2013, a few weeks before the January 5, 2014 general elections boycotted by all opposition party.
Bangladesh Nationalist Party ward unit leader Sajedul Islam Sumon’s sister Sanjida Islam Tuli said that the government was not responding to the calls made by the victim families.
‘The Rapid Action Battalion had picked my brothers and the authorities recorded no case,’ she said.
‘We moved to the High Court but it went slow…we moved to UN working group who called for government’s explanation, but the government never replied and no investigation into the incidents ever took place...we want reply from the government,’ said Tuli.
With crutches, Badrul Alam stepped up on the dais and said that he became unconscious due to continued torture in police custody in February 2015, and later he discovered himself on the bank of a river were cops shot him in the leg.
‘I could escape the death only because media had published my story on arrest,’ Badrul said, adding that he never knew why he was tortured.
Islami Oikkyo Jote leader Mehedi Hasan detailed how his businessman brother Shahnoor Alam was picked up from his Nabinagar house on April 29, 2014 and tortured by a Rapid Action Battalion team lead by Major Sadik Siddique.
He died of wound in Comilla district jail on May 6, 2014, Mehedi said, adding that a judicial magistrate ordered the police to probe the case, but the magistrate was withdrawn on the following day. ‘We moved to the High Court, with whom the matter is still pending,’ he added.
Mehedi said ‘I do not want justice but definitely want to know why my brother was killed.’
Saleha Begum, the mother of SM Moazzzem Hossain Topu who was picked up allegedly by law enforcers from Bashundhara residential area on January 26, 2016, said she had approached every single door of the government but his whereabouts was never known.
‘He is victim of politics in which law enforcers were used in exchange of huge money,’ said Saleha.
Dhaka University law department professor Asif Nazrul said that people on valid grounds believed that the law enforcement and security agencies were behind enforced disappearance.
The families and victims named a number of civil and military officials.
Dhaka University international relations’ professor CR Abrar said that none of the perpetrators would be spared. ‘Identify the perpetrators of these [crimes],’ he added.
Pointing at the government, Abrar, also rights organisation Odhikar president, said that if they denied the allegation no problem, but the incidents must be investigated.
Nagorik Oikya convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna said that the families of the victims of enforced disappearance should know whether the victims were alive or dead, as their families could not even pray for them.
Former BNP lawmaker Nilufar Chowdhury Moni, Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal general secretary Khalequzzaman, journalist and analyst Mahfuz Ullah, Communist Party of Bangladesh secretary Ruhin Hossain Prince and Jatiya Mukti Council general secretary Faizul Hakim Lala, among others, spoke at the public hearing.
Disappeared former Bangladesh ambassador Maroof Zaman’s daughter Samiha Zaman could not speak up but just was holding a portrait of her father, who disappeared in early December 2017.
Ganatantrik Bam Morcha coordinator Junaid Saki said that the government wanted to create a panic among the people and ‘we have seen the government using law enforcement agencies for enforced disappearance and killings.’
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