25 February 2017, Sat, 9:03

UN experts urge Bangladesh government to stop enforced disappearances

United Nations human rights experts have called 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 extrajudicial 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 Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances is comprised of five independent experts from all regions of the world.

The Chair-Rapporteur is Houria Es-Slami (Morocco) and the Vice-Chair is Bernard Duhaime (Canada); other members are Tae-Ung Baik (Republic of Korea), Ariel Dulitzky (Argentina) and Henrikas Mickevicius (Lithuania).

The appeal by the UN experts follows the kidnapping, allegedly by Bangladesh security forces, of three men in August last year, according to a message received here from Geneva on Friday. Hummam Quader Chowdhury, Mir Ahmed Bin Quasem and Brigadier General Abdullahil Amaan Al Azmi, were all abducted in the capital, Dhaka, in separate incidents, the statement claimed. 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 against humanity 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 Bangladesh government to immediately reveal the whereabouts of the above-mentioned men, and of all other victims of enforced disappearances. The experts also emphasised their willingness to help the Bangladesh government to implement the 1992 UN Declaration on the Protection of All Persons From Enforced Disappearance.

The appeal has been endorsed by the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Nils Melzer; the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai; the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard; and the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Diego García-Sayán.