International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances was observed in Bangladesh on Thursday with calls from victim families to prosecute perpetrators of enforced disappearances of people mostly having political connections.
Major programme was organised in Dhaka by the victim families while different rights groups including Odhikar held human chain and discussion in districts.
National Human Rights Commission, however, took no programme to mark the day as its officials said that they usually observed only International Human Rights Day and Women Rights Day.
August 30 has globally been observed as the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances since 2011 to condemn, what the United Nations considers, ‘a strategy to spread terror in society’.
Rights activists said that enforced disappearance was core issue of concern in Bangladesh after extrajudicial killing and custodial death and torture.
Hong Kong-based rights group Asian Human Rights Commission in a statement of Thursday said that Bangladesh recorded several hundred enforced disappearances of political opponents of the ruling Awami League within past few months.
‘Although the governments’ claim that there will be inquiries into the matter and the guilty will be prosecuted, this hardly ever happens. The victims should be given more protection,’ the statement read.
According to rights organisation Odhikar, at least 435 people were subjected to enforced disappearance allegedly by various law enforcement agencies between January 2009 and July 2018.
Among them, 55 were found dead, 244 were released after being left blindfolded at a particular location or shown arrested or produced before any court after several days or months following their disappearance, and the whereabouts of 136 still remained unknown.
Maer daak, a platform of the victims of disappearance and extrajudicial killings, organised a programme at the National Press Club, where families of the victims of enforced disappearances demanded return of their loved ones.
Samiha Zaman, daughter of missing former ambassador M Maroof Zaman, said she was searching for her father over nine months. ‘Yet, I have not received any help from anybody,’ she said.
Saleha Begum, mother of ‘missing’ Chhatra League leader SM Moajjem Hosen Topu, said, ‘If he did anything wrong, he should be punished under law. My question is what kind of a country is this where, if people are killed, their body cannot be found.’
Dhaka University professor CR Abrar said that children wanted their fathers back, wives wanted their husbands and parents wanted their children back.
Nagorik Oikkya convenor Mahmudur Rahman Manna said that he had been attending the programme for the past five years and saw no government response.
Rights activist Nur Khan Liton said that numerous people went missing and fortunately one or two persons returned but those who returned said that they were kept in chicken coops.
Shahnah Kabir, the wife of missing Bangladesh Nationalist Party Laksham municipal unit president Humayun Kabir, said that her husband was picked up on November 27, 2013 after the abduction of BNP leaders Ilias Ali and Chowdhury Alam.
She said that she protested against Rapid Action Battalion over the abduction. ‘If the then battalion commanding officer Tarek Sayeed is interrogated, information about my husband will be revealed,’ she said.
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