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Bangladesh: End disappearances and secret detentions

Ensure justice, answers for rights abuses

Opposition activists carry a portrait of Elias Ali, an opposition politician who was suspected to have been abducted by security forces in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 9 May 2012
Opposition activists carry a portrait of Elias Ali, an opposition politician who was suspected to have been abducted by security forces in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 9 May 2012

AP Photo/Pavel Rahman

This statement was originally published on on 6 July 2017.

Bangladesh law enforcement authorities have illegally detained hundreds of people since 2013, including scores of opposition activists, and held them in secret detention, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The Bangladesh government should immediately stop this widespread practice of enforced disappearances, order prompt, impartial, and independent investigations into these allegations, provide answers to families, and prosecute security forces responsible for such egregious rights violations.

The 82-page report, 'We Don't Have Him': Secret Detentions and Enforced Disappearances in Bangladesh, found that at least 90 people were victims of enforced disappearance in 2016 alone. While most were produced in court after weeks or months of secret detention, Human Rights Watch documented 21 cases of detainees who were later killed, and nine others whose whereabouts remain unknown. The 90 cases include 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. In the first five months of 2017, 48 disappearances were reported. There are allegations of severe torture and ill-treatment while in secret custody.

"The disappearances are well-documented and reported, yet the government persists in this abhorrent practice with no regard for the rule of law," said Brad Adams, Asia director. "Bangladesh security forces appear to have a free hand in detaining people, deciding on their guilt or innocence, and determining their punishment, including whether they have the right to be alive."

The report also documents 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.

Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 100 people, including family members and witnesses, to document these cases. Details of police complaints and other legal documents are included in the report. The Bangladesh authorities failed to respond to letters seeking their views on these cases.

Witnesses and family members told Human Rights Watch that most of the abuses were carried out by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) or the Detective Branch of the police (DB), both of which have long-recorded histories of abuse. In the case of the 19 opposition party members, witnesses said that eight were taken by RAB, six by DB, and the rest by unknown security forces.

Ruhul Amin Chowdhury, who saw RAB take away his son, Adnan Chowdhury, on December 5, 2013, said he had trusted RAB to release his son the next day. "They said, 'We are taking him. We will bring him back,'" he said. "They betrayed us."

Continue reading the HRW statement, especially for "Selected Accounts" on some of the disappearances.

You can also download the full report.

সারসংক্ষেপ এবং সুপারিশ ডাউনলোড করুন - (Or download the summary and recommendations in Bengali)

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