Families of the victims of enforced disappearance and rights activists criticised prime minister’s international affairs adviser Gowher Rizvi for doubting reported cases of disappearance in Bangladesh.
In reaction to Gowher Rizvi’s remark, Sanjida Islam Tulee, one of the spokespersons of Mayer Daak campaigning for return of their relatives gone missing before 2014 general elections, told New Age on Saturday that they approached all the government corners to find out their relatives.
She said the advisor gave a wrong message by doubting over the incidents of enforce disappearances.
In Al Jazeera’s headtohead programme aired on Friday, Gowher Rizvi said that the Awami League government did not need to make people subjected to disappearances as it had the authority to arrest people.
Replying to a question on enforced disappearance, Gowher Rizvi did accept that it was ‘deplorable’ if it was taking place and that the government ‘will investigate’.
‘Using “if”, the adviser tried to bypass the truth,’ said rights activist Nur Khan Liton, adding, ‘that is why we have been calling the government to set up an independent and credible commission to investigate each of the cases in which the families have pointed fingers toward the law enforcers.’
European Parliament in its resolution on November 15, 2018 called on the Bangladesh government to conduct independent investigations into reports of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.
Rights organisation Ain o Salish Kendra executive director Sheepa Hafiza also contradicted Gowher Rizvi and said the enforced disappearance continued to go unabated with the government continuing to deny the allegations over the years.
According to rights organisation Odhikar, at least 507 people were subjected to enforced disappearance between January 2009 and December 2018. Of them, 62 were found dead, 286 returned alive or were showed arrested or produced before courts. But, whereabouts of the 159 others are still unknown.
Odhikar secretary Adilur Rahman Khan said it was Gowher Rizvi’s political stance to hide the reality.
‘The fact is none of the families have got justice over the disappearance of their relative over the years,’ he said.
On August 8, 2018, dismissed but decorated army officer Hasinur Rahman was reportedly picked up by a group of people wearing ‘DB’ jackets on a microbus at Mirpur Defence Officers Housing Society on his way home.
His wife Shamima Akhter approached different authorities and filed a general diary with Pallabi police station. Both Rapid Action Battalion and police denied to have arrested Hasinur. ‘We do not know where else to go,’ said Shamima.
North South University faculty Mubashar Hasan, who went missing on November 7, 2018, returned home after 44 days in December and left the country.
National Human Rights Commission chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque said that bin many cases, victims, including Mubashar, returned home after the commission wrote to the government, but the whereabouts of some others, including former ambassador M Maroof Zaman, were still unknown.
He said that the commission would feel relieved if the perpetrators were identified.
The commission sent a letter to the home ministry on February 26, 2017 along with a list of 156 complaints against cops pending with the ministry for long.
On the allegations, 27 were of enforced disappearance, 24 of torture, 20 of police harassment, 12 of extrajudicial killings or ‘crossfire’, 4 of negligence in investigations, 4 of land grabbing, 4 of extortion and the rest were of bribery and other unlawful activities.
No response has been found so far, said one of the members of the commission.
Rehana Banu Munni, sister of Sutrapur unit Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal president Selim Reza Pintu who was picked up on December 11, 2013, approached the commission in 2015.
As of November 27, 2018, the commission sent 18 letters to the home ministry for investigation but no result came up.
Geneva-based rights group International Commission of Jurists in its reports in 2017 said following the Awami League government’s assuming power in 2009 there had been a surge in enforced disappearances, with reports of opposition political activists and human rights defenders going ‘missing’.
As of July 2017, the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances received at least 40 allegations from Bangladesh.
On October 18, 2018, UN General Assembly stood firm in denouncing enforced disappearances while Bangladesh ambassador Masud Bin Momen announced his country’s ‘firmed commitment to safeguarding the human rights’.
Bangladesh is 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.
The Human Rights Watch reported in 2017 that Bangladesh law minister Anisul Huq in March 2017 acknowledged the UN Human Rights Committee that disappearances had taken place, but claimed that the number had been brought down to ‘a very low level’.
In its concluding observations following the initial review of Bangladesh’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 2017, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern that ‘domestic law does not effectively criminalise enforced disappearances’ and recommended that Bangladesh ‘effectively criminalise enforced disappearance’.
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