HRW to Bangladesh: Stop enforced disappearances
Bangladesh law enforcement agencies have illegally detained hundreds of people including opposition activists since 2013, and held them in secret without producing them before courts, according to a Human Rights Watch report on Thursday.
Titled "'We Don't Have Him': Secret Detentions and Enforced Disappearances in Bangladesh", the 82-page report found that at least 90 people were victims of enforced disappearance in 2016 alone.
While most detainees were referred to court "after weeks or months of secret detention", the human rights group said it also documented 21 cases of detainees "who were later killed, and nine others whose whereabouts remain unknown".
In the first five months of 2017, 48 disappearances were reported, the HRW said, adding there were allegations of severe torture and ill-treatment while in secret custody.
Human Rights Watch said it interviewed more than 100 people, including family members and witnesses, to document these cases including "three sons of prominent opposition politicians who were picked up over several weeks in August 2016; one was released after six months of secret detention, while the other two remain disappeared".
The report also documented "the continuing disappearance" of 19 opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) activists. "The 19 men were picked up by law enforcement authorities in eight separate incidents over a two-week period in or around Dhaka in the weeks before the January 2014 elections," it said.
HRW Asia Director Brad Adams accused the Bangladesh government of persisting "in this abhorrent practice" with no regard for human rights, human life, and the rule of law, although "the disappearances are well-documented and reported".
"The government doesn't even bother denying these abuses, instead remaining silent and relying on silence from the international community in return. This silence needs to end," he said.
According to the report, in addition to enforced disappearances, there is also an "alarming trend of deaths occurring in secret detention of state authorities".
The New York-based group urged the government of Bangladesh to "promptly investigate existing allegations of enforced disappearances, locate and release those held secretly by security forces, and prosecute the perpetrators".
It also called for an investigation into "allegations of deaths of individuals in so-called crossfire or gunfights after they were already in security force custody".
The group also urged the government to "immediately suspend, pending a full investigation, and remove from Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and the Detective Branch of the police (DB), and other law enforcement units or other position any individual for whom there exists credible evidence that they participated in an enforced disappearance".
The HRW also called on the government to "work to disband RAB, which has been responsible for numerous and serious human rights violations, and replace with a non-military counterterrorism unit".
The group also said the Bangladesh government should "ensure serious and independent investigations by inviting the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and relevant UN special procedures to visit Bangladesh to investigate and make appropriate recommendations to ensure justice and accountability, as well as reform of the security forces to act independently and professionally".