THE foreign minister’s claim on Wednesday that the Bangladesh mission in Kolkata could not ascertain whether Sukhranjan Bali, a war crimes witness allegedly abducted from the International Crimes Tribunal premises by law enforcement personnel and then handed over to the Border Security Force of India late last year, was among the 130 Bangladeshis detained in Kolkata jail, is intriguing. According to a report published in New Age on Thursday, she told journalists at a foreign ministry briefing on the outcome of her first bilateral talks with the US secretary of state that the mission had talked to all the Bangladeshi detainees in Kolkata jail but was not certain if Bali was among them. Suffice to say, if the Kolkata mission is right and if Bali is really not in Kolkata jail, it renders the situation more complicated.
First of all, Bali is no fictitious character that can appear and disappear just like that. He was a witness in the war crimes trial of Jamaat leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee; so, his identity is documented. Second, according to his statement, which New Age reported on May 16, he was produced in an Indian court, pleaded guilty under Foreigners Act 1946 and sentenced to 105 days in prison. In that case, there must be records of his arrest with the Kolkata police, his verdict with the Kolkata judicial system and his detention order with Kolkata prison authorities. If his claim, as well as his allegation that he was abducted from the ICT premises, detained by the Bangladesh police for several weeks and then handed over to the BSF, were untrue, it follows then that he is in Bangladesh.
Either way, the foreign minister or the government cannot simply claim that Bali’s presence in Kolkata jail could not be ascertained and wash their hands off the matter, especially when the person in question has raised some serious allegations, i.e. there may have been attempts by law enforcers—and, by implication, the Awami League-led ruling alliance—at subversion of justice through enforced disappearance of a witness in the war crimes trial. Moreover, the allegations have meanwhile come to the attention of the international community that has expressed its concern about the war crimes trial time and again. Last but not least, Human Rights Watch has confirmed Bali’s detention in India and already articulated its apprehension about his safety and security, saying ‘there is a real risk to his life or of his suffering ill-treatment if he returns to Bangladesh’ and asking the Indian government not to return him to Bangladesh ‘until he is interviewed by the Indian office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’.
In such circumstances, it is imperative that the incumbents should redouble their efforts to determine Bali’s whereabouts and, as and when they do, let it known to the public. Otherwise, they may be perceived of having created a smokescreen through ambiguous statements and thus trying to cover up certain serious offences perpetrated by a section of the law enforcers, which would be unacceptable.
Source: New Age Editorial