Son of opposition politician released from secret detention in Bangladesh

By Agencies
March 3, 2017

The release this week of a man held incommunicado for more than six months after his apparent abduction by security forces is a step forward, but Bangladeshi authorities need to immediately reveal the fate and whereabouts of two other men held in secret detention, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said yesterday (2 March 2017)

Humam Quader Chowdhury, who was taken away by men in plainclothes on 4 August  2016, was released 2 March 2017, near his family home in Dhaka. Two other men – Mir Ahmad Bin Quasem and Abdullahil Amaan Azmi – were also taken in August 2016 in separate incidents and have not been heard from since. Human Rights Watch has called for them to be either charged or released without delay.

The three men are all sons of prominent opposition politicians tried and convicted by the International Crimes Tribunal set up to prosecute war crimes committed during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence. They have been denied access to lawyers and their family members.

“The release of Humam Quader Chowdhury is one positive step, but he should never should have been held in secret detention in the first place,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Bangladeshi authorities need to now come clean about what has happened to Mir Ahmad Bin Quasem and Abdullahil Amaan Azmi, and provide their families with answers. They were picked up in front of relatives and other eyewitnesses and there is little room for denial that security forces were involved in their enforced disappearances.”

International pressure has mounted on the Bangladeshi authorities over these and other cases. Last week, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances called on the government to reveal the whereabouts of the three men and all other victims of enforced disappearances in the country. The working group’s statement, citing concern over a rise in enforced disappearances over the last few years, was endorsed by several other UN experts.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have been raising concerns about these disappearances for many months.

The authorities have denied holding the men in custody, although family members cite multiple credible sources to confirm they were held by different branches of security forces since their abductions, including the Rapid Action Battalion and the military intelligence Directorate General of Forces Intelligence.

Enforced disappearances, particularly targeting supporters of opposition parties, are routinely conducted by security forces in Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi human rights group Odhikar reported that in 2016, at least 90 people were arrested by security forces and not heard from again. Enforced disappearance is defined under international law as the arrest or detention of a person by state officials or their agents, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or to reveal the person’s fate or whereabouts.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both highlighted Bangladeshi security forces’ extensive and well-documented history of custodial abuse, including torture and other ill-treatment.

“Enforced disappearances have become a scourge in Bangladesh. For far too long, far too many families have lived with the grief of not knowing where their loved ones are,” said Biraj Patnaik, South Asia director at Amnesty International. “The Bangladeshi authorities need to put an end to this criminal practice immediately. They should bring those suspected of criminal responsibility to justice in fair trials without recourse to the death penalty.”

* Amnesty International https://www.amnesty.org.uk/

* Human Rights Watch https://www.hrw.org/

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