A leading international rights group has accused Bangladesh’s security forces of gross human rights abuse, saying since 2013 hundreds of people, including many from the, have disappeared, have been killed or are held in secret detention. In a report released on Thursday, Human Rights Watch asked the Bangladesh government to “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, the New York-based rights watchdog documented 21 cases of detainees who were later killed, and nine others whose whereabouts remain unknown.
“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 for Human Rights Watch. “Bangladesh security forces,” he said, “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.”
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. There are allegations of severe torture and ill-treatment while in secret custody.
In addition to enforced disappearances, Human Rights Watch claims there is also an alarming trend of deaths occurring in secret detention of state authorities. Although the ruling Awami League party came to power in 2009 with a promise of “zero tolerance” for human rights violations, the practice of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances has persisted, with human rights organizations reporting at least 320 cases of disappearances since 2009. These include people suspected of criminal activities and militancy, as well as members of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
“The Bangladesh government is making a habit of complete disregard for human rights, human life, and the rule of law,” Adams said. “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.”
Human Rights Watch urged the Bangladesh government to invite the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate these allegations and make appropriate recommendations to ensure justice, accountability, and security force reform. (Source: Human Rights Watch)