GENEVA (24 February 2017) – United Nations human rights experts* are calling on Bangladesh to act now to halt an increasing number of enforced disappearances in the country.
The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances says the number of cases has risen from a few isolated cases a few years ago, to more than 40 now, and that the number is continuing to grow. Independent reports blame the Rapid Action Battalion of the Bangladesh Police for several disappearances and extra-judicial executions, notably of political opponents of the Government.
“Enforced disappearance is a heinous crime and an offence to human dignity and no circumstances whatsoever may be invoked to justify it,” the Working Group said amid reports that abductions are being frequently used by law enforcement and security agencies.
The appeal by the UN experts follows the kidnapping, allegedly by Bangladesh security forces, of three men in August last year. Hummam Quader Chowdhury, Mir Ahmed Bin Quasem and Brigadier General Abdullahil Amaan Al Azmi, were all abducted in the capital, Dhaka, in separate incidents.
All three men are linked to opposition political parties. Each of their fathers had been convicted by Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), which was set up in 2009 to investigate and prosecute suspects for crimes during the conflict in 1971. They had also worked on their fathers’ defence during the trials and had campaigned subsequently for their release.
The expert panel pointed to widespread criticism of the ICT, including from a number of Special Rapporteurs, and appealed to the Government in Dhaka to take action now, stressing: “All reported cases of enforced disappearances must be thoroughly and independently investigated, and the perpetrators brought to justice.”
The Working Group called on the government of Bangladesh to immediately reveal the whereabouts of the above-mentioned men, and of all other victims of enforced disappearances. The experts also emphasized their willingness to help the Bangladeshi Government to implement the 1992 UN Declaration on the Protection of All Persons From Enforced Disappearance.
The Working Group’s appeal has been endorsed by the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Mr. Nils Melzer; the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Mr. Maina Kiai; the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Ms. Agnes Callamard; and the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Mr. Diego García-Sayán.
(*) The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances is comprised of five independent experts from all regions of the world. The Chair-Rapporteur is Ms. Houria Es-Slami (Morocco) and the Vice-Chair is Mr. Bernard Duhaime (Canada); other members are Mr. Tae-Ung Baik (Republic of Korea), Mr. Ariel Dulitzky (Argentina) and Mr. Henrikas Mickevicius (Lithuania).
The Working Group was established by the then UN Commission on Human Rights in 1980 to assist families in determining the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives. It endeavours to establish a channel of communication between the families and the Governments concerned, to ensure that individual cases are investigated, with the objective of clarifying the whereabouts of persons who, having disappeared, are placed outside the protection of the law. It also provides assistance in the implementation by States of the UN Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
The Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.
UN Human Rights, country page: Bangladesh
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