IT IS worrying that enforced disappearance, which has earned the country a negative image at home and abroad, goes unabated with security forces and law enforcement agencies, which are allegedly the actors behind, enjoying sort of impunity and the government appearing to ignore the issue. Twelve national and international rights organisations said in a joint statement, issued on August 28, that at least 572 people were subjected to enforced disappearance by security forces and law enforcement agencies in Bangladesh between January 1, 2009 and July 31, 2020. The statement also added that law enforcement agencies committed enforced disappearance ‘with impunity targeting journalists, activists and government critics’ and that some were eventually released, shown arrested, or found dead in reported incidents of ‘crossfire’ while the whereabouts of many of the victims remained still unknown. Such a continuity of enforced disappearance targeting mostly political dissidents has come up, Amnesty International stated on August 11, to be ‘a disturbing pattern’ and a ‘brazen tactics’ to silence political dissent in Bangladesh. Many other rights organisations expressed concern over the surge of enforced disappearance, which, they say, is an indicator of a worrying human rights situation, an absence of the rule of law and a weak democracy.
While the government has been largely in denial, the European Parliament in 2018 called on Bangladesh to conduct independent investigation into the incidents of extrajudicial killing and enforced disappearance. The parliament has also noted that the rise of enforced disappearance under the current of government. In July 2019, the law minister during a hearing at the UN Committee Against Torture in Geneva is reported to have admitted that enforced disappearances take place but refused to recognise the frequency. The home minister has sought to explain, as New Age reported on Sunday, its failure to investigate the cases of enforced disappearance saying that they received no specific complaints from the victim families, which is unacceptable as families of the victims of enforced disappearance are reported to have turned to every door they could avail to know the whereabouts of their dear ones. On the eve of International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances on Saturday, from a human chain in front of the National Museum in Dhaka, the victim families once again urged the government to return their loved ones unharmed and to investigate all cases of disappearance. Different rights organisations, including the National Human Rights Commission, are also reported to have sent letters to the ministry with list of names of people disappeared.
Being a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which defines the widespread or systematic practice of enforced disappearance as a crime against humanity, Bangladesh must see an end to such incidents. The government, under the circumstances, must institute independent investigations into the cases to end such heinous practice. The government should also think of setting up an independent tribunal to deal with the cases of enforced disappearance. Human rights activists and organisations should work together to make the government address the issue earnestly and at the earliest.
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