Speakers at a briefing in United States on human rights in Bangladesh said rights situation here have alarmingly deteriorated and people’s political rights are now crushed.
The briefing on the shrinking space for civil society titled ‘Human Rights in Bangladesh’ was held at Rayburn House Office Building in Washington on Tuesday.
Rafida Bonya Ahmed, wife of slain writer-blogger Avijit Roy, Sahar Chaudhry, Senior Policy Analyst, US Commission for International Religious Freedom, Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Director, Free Expression Programs, PEN American Center, Bharath Gopalaswamy, Director, South Asia Center, Atlantic Council took part in the briefing.
Congressman James P McGovern, Co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission delivered the opening remark at the briefing moderated by Michael De Dora, Director, Office of Public Policy, Center for Inquiry.
James P McGovern said the government of Bangladesh has shrunk the space for opposition political parties.
“Opposition rallies have been restricted or broken up by state security forces, leading to mass arrests as well as deaths, while human rights defenders that document abuses have been threatened or detained and often assaulted themselves,” he said.
McGovern further said there have been reports of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances.
McGovern said in the power struggle between the major political parties—the Awami League and the Bangladesh National Party—civil society often gets caught in the crossfire.
He said additional concerns have been raised by the government’s response to protests and dissent.
“With the news that transnational terror networks— including Al Qaeda and ISIS—are present in Bangladesh, the challenges to stability and democracy are likely to intensify.”
Referring to executions of Jamaat-e-Islami leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, he said, “Two opposition leaders were executed by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) for war crimes. But credible observers—including the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International—have criticized the trials as lacking fair trial and due process standards.”
He went on to say, “As Co-Chairs of the Commission, Congressman Pitts and I joined many others, including former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Stephen Rapp, in calling on Bangladesh to halt the executions because of the due process issues. Unfortunately, our calls were not heeded.”
Michael De Dora said over the past two years the human rights situation in Bangladesh has worsened.
“This deterioration has been marked by the five gruesome murders of secular writers and publishers this year alone,” he said, adding, “civil and political rights are undermined in Bangladesh. Protests against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Awami League party have been shut down, critical views censored, and their authors arrested or sometimes disappeared.”
De Dora further said that “if the human rights situation in Bangladesh worsens — if terror groups such as Ansarullah Bangla Team and al Qaeda and ISIS are allowed to roam more freely in, and take more control over the country — the global community will soon have a much bigger problem on our hands than a series of gruesome attacks in Bangladesh.”
Link: Naya Diganta
Bangladesh: Charge or Release Detained Counsel
Intimidation of Defense Ahead of Appeals Furthers Blow to Flawed Trials
(New York) – The Bangladeshi authorities should immediately charge or release Asad Uddin, a key member of the defense team in the war crimes trial against Motiur Rahman Nizami, Human Rights Watch said today. Uddin’s arrest comes two weeks ahead of key appeals and review hearings in the cases of two men, both senior members of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, convicted by the war crimes tribunal.
Uddin was travelling to his hometown in Sirajganj when he was detained on October 22, 2015, at around 2:30 p.m. According to an eyewitness, armed men in both police uniforms and plainclothes stopped the bus he was travelling on immediately after it had crossed the Jamuna River Bridge. They identified themselves as members of the detective branch of the police and detained Uddin. The bus driver and some other eyewitnesses on the bus immediately notified Uddin’s family, who tried to register a complaint with the police. The police rejected the application, and denied having him in custody in spite of credible evidence obtained by his family that he is being held in the detective branch of the Sirajganj Police Station.
That same day in the evening, the uniformed police raided the house of another defense counsel, Mohammad Shishir Manir, stating to those present that they were there to arrest him. They left after not finding Shishir at home. Shortly after, men in plainclothes, who identified themselves as members of the detective branch, again entered Shishir’s home, detained his driver, and questioned the driver for several hours before finally releasing him.
On October 25, Asad Uddin was produced before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrates Court in Dhaka, where police argued that they needed more time to question him because they suspected a conspiracy to “overthrow the government and obstruct the war crimes trials.” On October 26, the magistrate remanded Uddin to two days remand in the Dhaka Central Jail.
“The detention of Uddin and the raid on Shishir’s home are deeply worrisome,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The arrest and raid seem to be an effort to intimidate lawyers acting as defense counsel at the war crimes tribunal with flimsy allegations, a shocking breach of the rule of law.”
Human Rights Watch noted that Bangladeshi authorities have a history of harassing defense lawyers acting on behalf of those accused of war crimes committed during the country’s 1971 War of Independence. Following a warrantless raid by armed police on the office of a defense team in October 2012, the war crimes tribunal issued an order instructing the security services to ensure the physical security of all defense counsel involved in these cases. The arrest of Uddin and the raid on Shishir’s home are in direct violation of that order.
Both Bangladeshi and international law recognize the importance of the need to protect the ability of lawyers to work freely without intimidation, whether on the prosecution side or the defense. In the absence of such protection, the accused are unable to freely communicate with their counsel, and counsel are then unable to represent their clients fully.
Human Rights Watch noted that the October 22, 2015, police actions come shortly before two important hearings slated for November 2 and November 3, in which Uddin and Shishir are involved as counsel. On November 2, there is a review petition in the case of Ali Ahsan Mohamed Mujahid, who is asking for the right to appeal against his death sentence conviction. His previous appeals application has been rejected by the appellate division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. If the review petition fails, then Mujahid faces imminent execution. On November 3, the appellate division of the Supreme Court is slated to hear the appeal of Nizami against his death sentence conviction at the trial stage. Both trials, like others before the war crimes court, have been plagued by credible allegations of serious fair trial violations.
“These latest attacks on defense counsel involved in imminent critical hearings lend another devastating blow to the credibility of the war crimes trials,” said Adams. “We have long called for accountability for the crimes of the 1971 war, but they cannot come at the cost of fair trials.”
Source: Human Rights Watch
About 143 people were reportedly killed and nearly 5,000 injured in political violence across the country till September this year, says a bulletin of Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), a human rights body, reports UNB news agency.
The ASK recorded a total of 740 incidents of political violence in the country during the period.
A total of 52 people died in jail custody. Some 35 people were killed by Indian Border Security Force (BSF) while 58 people injured and 53 others abducted, says the latest statistics of the right body released on Monday.
It shows that 148 people were allegedly killed by law enforcement agencies during January-September 2015 while 43 people reportedly picked up by them.
A total of 191 incidents of harassing journalists took place in the country during the period while 12 journalists received death threats from ruling party members or its affiliates, and 17 were harassed by members of law enforcement agencies.
The ASK also found incidents of violence against minority in the country. The bulletin recorded that 103 homes and 146 temples, monasteries or statues of the Hindu community were destroyed during the period in which 56 people were injured.
Source: Prothom Alo
Akramuzzaman Raja Miah (55), president of Ward No 31 of Khulna City Unit of Bangladesh Jaamat-i-Islami, died in custody on 12 October 2015 night after suffering from a heart attack. He had been produced before court on the morning of the same day and after being denied bail, was brought back in jail in good health. Suddenly turning ill, he felt pain in the heart during the evening and died in Khulna Medical College Hospital at night, according to Khulna Jail Authority.
Raja Miah was arrested by police on the 27th of September 2015 from his locality at Azad Master Road of the city while he was out greeting and meeting with people on Eid with two of his friends, Nasiruddin Mollah and Kabir Hossain Nazmul. Later, he was shown arrested under section 25B of the Special Power Act, 1974, a widely known black law of the country, which has no option of bail and allows preventive detention, extending the power of the police to detain and interrogate ‘suspects’ in the name of ‘state security’. Raja Miah’s family informed media that the case against him was false and fabricated. Khulna District Jail Super Kamrul Islam said that Raja Miah may have died from mental stress after being subject to arrest under a non-bailable section.
Jamaat-e-Islami in a statement claimed that Raja Miah was arrested and detained by government unjustly, and negligence and lack of proper treatment paved the way of his custodial death.
Lack of manpower, corruption and negligence has turned Bangladeshi prisons into a breeding ground of crime and injustice.
“Hey, people, welcome to your new home. Now you are the dwellers of one of Bangladesh’s most famous buildings. Here, we have two packages for you. If you can pay 5000 Taka you will be allotted to a cell where you can get ‘homely’ comfort. You can also stay in the ward which will cost only 3500 Taka. Now, people, give us the contact numbers and let’s call your relatives to arrange the payment.”
That was the ‘briefing session’ in Amdani, a hall room, where all the newly admitted prisoners are rounded up for it and to be allotted to the specific wards and cells. This is how, right from the start, jail guards and officials extort money from the prisoners, according to Abdul Jalil (pseudonym) who has spent three terrible months in Dhaka Central Jail (DCJ).
Throughout their stay, the inmates have to pay extra money for each and every facility which they were supposed to get free of cost. Even, according to the former prisoners, they can get any undue and illegal privilege by bribing the guards. For example, using mobile phones inside the prison or getting alcohol or narcotics, like marijuana or methamphetamines, is no problem at all.
The prison system is one of the largest government run citizen welfare systems in Bangladesh. It is also one of the most neglected departments. There are 55 district jails and 13 central jails in Bangladesh. The total prisoner capacity of all these jails amounts to 33,430, whereas currently the number of prisoners is more than 75,000. As a result, the condition of the inmates is appalling.
Jalil says, “As I could not pay any money to the officials I had to stay in a normal ward. 65 prisoners were crammed into a room suitable for 20 people at most. We had no place for sleeping. We could only sit with our legs up. This is how I had to spend every night during my 3 months of incarceration.
The hygiene condition inside the jail is also terrible. “You cannot have what we call toilets inside the jail. There is a tub attached to every ward where prisoners have to urinate or defecate. Those tubs would overflow with human waste in no time and all of it would be smeared across the jail floor,” says Jalil.
Rashidul Karim (pseudonym), another former prisoner of DCJ, and the student of a reputed public university says, “I used to buy meals from the stalls inside the jail. However, the price was excruciatingly high. I had to pay 650 Taka for a chicken and 200 Taka for one kilo of rice.”
However, nothing can be obtained in the prison without bribing the jail guards and their subedars. In front of the jail gates, they can be seen bargaining with the relatives of the inmates. Taslima, with her 8 year old son, comes to see her husband. A jail guard informs her that her husband is in a ward called School Ghar. If she wants to give food or money to her husband she has to pay 500 Taka. If she wants to talk personally with him, the rate is 3000 Taka.
Taslima sends food but cannot afford to see her husband. When she asks the guard only to tell her about the physical condition of his husband, the guard demands 500 Taka more for the information, and helpless Taslima is forced to pay the extra money.
However, there is a facility in the jail where prisoners and their relatives can meet by buying a ticket from the jail authority. Taslima says, “The visiting room is so crowded that nobody can see or hear anything. But if I pay to these guards, they can arrange the meeting in a calmer and quieter environment.”
In this way, millions of Taka is exchanged illegally in the jail premises. After extorting money from the relatives, the jail guards take bribes from the inmates. However, usage of currency is prohibited inside the prison. So, instead of money, the prisoners and their guards have devised a new currency– cigarettes. Prisoners give packets of cigarettes to the guards to get anything they want. Rashid says, “I don’t smoke. However, I used to call my father to supply me with packets of cigarettes. It was very embarrassing. But to buy better food I had to bribe the guards with cigarettes. It is the only ‘recognised’ currency inside the jail.”
Brigadier Iftekhar Uddin, Inspector General (Prison) says in this regard, “We must eradicate corruption from its root cause. Whenever we get allegations of corruption, we take immediate official action. In my office, at the prisons HQ, I personally supervise so that no act of corruption can take place,” he adds.
The situation has deteriorated inside the jail due to overcrowding as for the last couple of years all the jails have been flooded with political prisoners. “Most of our prisons are carrying two, three or even five times more prisoners than their capacity,” says Iftekhar.
Professor Dr Mizanur Rahman, chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, has recently visited some of the prisons. He says, “The convicts inside the prisons are treated inhumanly. Our prison management system is archaic. This system treats the prisoners as the convicts who can have no human rights. We must change this mindset. We should realise that the purpose of a prison is to rehabilitate the convicts not to punish them.”
There are thousands of prisoners who have committed very minor crimes or even no crimes at all. But after experiencing the terrible environment and getting in touch with the imprisoned criminals, many of them get involved with the underground world.
Jalil shares his experience, “I saw two youngsters in the jail who were merely 16 years old. They were sent to the prison for stealing rear view mirrors of vehicles. After a few days, another group of four youngsters were admitted to the same ward for the same crime. Then those six boys formed a gang and pledged that they would work together after getting out of the prison.”
Psychological disorders and severe frustration are also very common among prisoners after suffering from a prolonged period of incarceration. Many of them become addicted too. There is no counseling facility in the prison. Medical facility is also very inadequate. Among 170 posts of prison-doctors, only seven are occupied and functioning. However, jail authority provides some free medicine prescribed by the doctor to all the prisoners.
Brigadier Iftekhar says, “We have severe lack of manpower, and resource constraints. In Dhaka Central Jail we have only two class one officers, six second class officers and 750 jail guards to manage 7,500 prisoners. Many of our prisons have been increased in area. However, we have been managing the prisons with the manpower structure formulated in 1984.”
Dr John Braithwaite, the renowned criminologist and expert on restorative justice, suggests a solution, “Implementation of restorative justice can contribute a lot to improve such crisis. It is a process where all stakeholders involved in a justice have an opportunity to discuss its effect on people and decide what is to be done to attempt to heal the wounds.”
“Bangladesh’s local courts called Salish can be a very effective tool for implementing restorative justice. If minor crimes and local disputes can be solved through these Salish, pressure on the prisons will be reduced and it will be easier to protect the rights of the prisoners,” adds John.
Experts like John Braithwaite, distinguished judges and police officers from all over the world recently visited Bangladesh to attend an international conference titled “Restorative Justice: From Crime Prevention to Conflict Transformation” and gave their suggestions to solve this humanitarian problem.
Despite of limited resources and severe manpower constraints, Bangladesh jail authority has taken some appreciable steps in rehabilitating the prisoners. In the Kashimpur jail facility, a digital printing press has been established to train the prisoners on modern printing technology. Prisoners are also getting training on garment sewing, handicrafts making, food processing etc. In every prison, there is a sales corner where products made by the prisoners are displayed and sold. The revenue from the sold products are deposited to the prisoners’ accounts and given to them at the time of their release.
Despite the slogan of Dhaka Central Jai l– “We shall keep you safe and guide you towards enlightenment” – which expresses the ultimate vision of a prison, the reality of it is quite the opposite. Many of the prisoners, who once entered the place for a minor crime, come out as reckless, organised criminals. Besides intense corruption, injustice and mismanagement, and social stigma against the former prisoners is also a reason behind this. If we can’t change our mindset and fail to rehabilitate these helpless people, social unrest will inevitably increase and it is us who will ultimately have to pay the price.
Source: The Daily Star
The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Police have arrested student organization Shibir Central Student welfare secretary and Bogura City ex-President Alauddin Sohel. Sources from the student organization informed that he was arrested by Shahjahanpur thana police on the 1st of September while returning to Dhaka from Joypurhat. However, police from their end have still not confirmed the arrest of the Shibir leader.
Bogura City Shibir Publicity Secretary Khalilur Rahman informed Sheershanews that at half past 10 pm during the night on 1st September, Alauddin Sohel was returning back via a bus belonging to Hanif Paribahan from Joypurhaat to Dhaka while on organizational duty. At around half past 12, a police van picked him up after an inspection of the bus on Bogura Dhaka highway to the west beside Shahjahanpur police station. Later, plain-clothed policemen blindfolded him and whisked him away to an unknown location. In light of numerous cases of similarly enacted arrests leading to extrajudicial killings in Bangladesh, friends and family of the arrested Shibir leader fear for his life.
On the other hand, Bogura additional Police superintendent (east) Arif Mondol denied any truth behind the issue of the arrest of Shibir leader Alauddin Sohel.
BSAF: 968 children killed in 43 months; 280 children raped in the first six months of 2015 in BangladeshADMIN : August 7, 2015 9:44 am : Human Rights, News
968 children killed in 43 months : Prothom Alo
A total of 968 children were tortured to death in last three and half a years, says child rights defender Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum in a recent study.
According to the study, the number of child murders was 61 percent higher in 2014 than the previous year.
Persons working for child rights, and others associated with the law enforcing agencies, said the number of child murders along with rape and other such crimes, was skyrocketing. The number of cases filed for torturing women and children at present is around 30 lakh (3 million) and is increasing every day.
According to the BSAF statistics, based on newspaper reports, a total of 209 children were killed in 2012, 218 in 2013, and 350 in 2014. The number of child killings stands at 191 in just first seven months of 2015.
BSAF director Abdus Shahid Mahmood told Prothom Alo, “Analysing several incidents published on newspapers show child murders are becoming more and more brutal day by day. The child oppressors, in most cases, are powerful people.”
“Incidents of child abuse occur, cases are lodged but there is no sign of any trial. Government statements that the incidents are under investigation are not acceptable,” he added.
State minister for women and children affairs Meher Afroz Chumki thanked the media for revealing the incidents of child abuse while talking to Prothom Alo.
“There might be more incidents of child abuse which do not come to media. The offenders who commit crimes against children cannot be called human beings. The common people should stand against these offenders socially,” the minister said.
A teenage boy, Sheikh Samiul Alam Rajan was brutally tortured to death over a theft in Sylhet on 8 July.
The boy died of internal bleeding following the torture and there were 64 injury marks on his body, said an autopsy report.
The killers themselves took the video footage of the incident and uploaded it on the internet. The video clip went viral on social networking site Facebook and video-sharing site YouTube which caused an outcry.
After medieval style torture of Samiul, two more boys were beaten to death in Barguna and Khulna.
News surfaced of another 12-year-old Rakib, tortured to death recently in Khulna. He had been pumped with air through his rectum.
Another boy Rabiul Awal, 11, was beaten dead for ‘stealing fish’. He had injury marks on his left eye.
In Magura, an unborn baby sustained bullet injuries when her eight-month pregnant mother was shot in the abdomen during an attack by a Magura Chhatra League faction at the Doarpar Karigorpara area in Magura on 23 July.
The police headquarters could not provide Prothom Alo with the number of child and women oppression cases under investigation.
However, according to a Law Commission report, a total of 30 lakh (3 million) such cases are under investigation right now and the number is increasing every day.
Law Commission chairman ABM Khairul Haque told Prothom Alo, “The offenders do move away from crime because of the slow pace of the judiciary. If one got exemplary punishment, a hundred more would be avoid committing such crimes. The law enforcing agencies should be more active in this regard.”
Additional inspector general of police (IGP) (media) Nazrul Islam said child perpetrators are not like other criminals of the society. The crimes are not committed by any organised group. These criminals cannot be monitored by police.
Police come to rescue the child and take action if someone informs them of the occurrence.
There is concern over the statistics which shows that the number of raped children stands just after the number of children murdered. According to the report of the Bangladesh Jatiya Mohila Ainjibi Samity, a total of 63 children were molested and 322 children were raped last year.
Coordinators of the one stop crisis centre at Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) Bilkis Begum said, “Even a one-year-old child even gets raped. The reproductive organ gets absolutely damaged when the victim is brought to us. The number of one, or two-year-old being raped is less, but three, four or five-year-old children get raped every now and then.”
Prof Md Tajul Islam of the National Institute of Mental Health said social and political unrest is the reason of frequent child repression.
He said these inhuman activities are on because of the denial of justice in the society and dominance of debauched people in society. He called upon media to expose such gruesome incidents of child oppression.
Source: Prothom Alo
280 children raped in first 6 months of 2015 : Dhaka Tribune
Around 8:30pm on July 20, a 12-year-old girl of a garment worker mother and a rickshaw-puller father was watching television at their tin-roofed house in Dhaka’s Mirpur area. Both her parents were out working and sensing that the girl was alone, Polash, the son of their landlord, knocked at the door.
The girl opened the door without any idea or suspicion about what ensued. Thirty-five-year-old Polash raped the helpless little girl who was still to reach puberty. When her mother came home, she told her everything and the family filed a case with the Mirpur model police station. Police were prompt to arrest Polash the very same day. But in less than a week, he was freed on bail.
On Sunday, August 2, two other girls were raped in Dhaka – a seven-year-old in Hazaribagh and a nine-year-old in Mirpur. Police managed to arrest the Hazaribagh rapist but the culprit who committed the crime in Mirpur has remained at large.
According children rights body Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum (BSAF), there has been a spike in the number of child rape incidents in 2015; a total of 280 children have been raped around the country in the first six months alone. The tally of all rapes stands at 896.
Rights activists say that the ease with which suspected rapists get freed on bail and the fact that police fail to arrest the accused more often than not have contributed to the climbing number of child rape cases.
The BSAF tally including stalking – prepared on the basis of news reports published in 10 national dailies – shows that 30 of the victims were aged below six, 79 belonged to the 7-12 years age group, and 80 belonged to the 13-18. The age of the remaining 91 could not be known. Of these 280 victims, 61 were gang raped, 20 were killed after rape, and four committed suicide after being raped.
According to figures from the police headquarters, more than 5,000 rape cases were filed in different parts of the country in the last five years. Courts have delivered verdict in only 821 of them and just about a hundred of those rapists have been punished.
When contacted, Prof Mahfuza Khanam, member of the National Human Rights Commission, told the Dhaka Tribune: “It appears that people are first committing the crime and then easily securing bail from courts using loopholes in existing laws. After coming out, they look for another prey.
“This cycle of crime will go on and on as long as there are loopholes in the laws.”
How and why rapists get bail
Rape cases are generally non-bailable, but there are several reasons why the accused get bail.
First, rape cases rely heavily on the statements given by victims or plaintiffs and the investigation officer. In the absence of victims or plaintiffs’ statement, cases lose strength. Second, sometimes there are flaws in filing of lawsuits, resulting from faulty investigation, which also make cases weak.
Police claimed that victims’ unwillingness to come to court, even for closed-door camera trials, is one big reason for the sloth in the trial of rape cases.
According to Rabiul Islam Robi, a Supreme Court practitioner: “Rape victims’ statements are not recorded in open courts. They usually testify one-to-one with the judge inside a special room in front of a camera. This is known as camera trials.”
While talking to the Dhaka Tribune, psychologist Ashoke Kumar Saha said this unwillingness of the victims is not unusual.
“Rape is a traumatic experience for any victims. Therefore, it is nothing abnormal if a victim does not want to recount the trauma, even before a court. There is also the social stigma associated with being raped in our society. Women do not want to talk openly about this,” Ashoke said.
“They live with a phobia as long as they live. Such phobia affects their lives in every way,” Ashoke added.
BSAF data shows that in the first six months of this year, 39 children were sexually harassed and 28 fell victims to stalking in different parts of the country. Data compiled by the rights body also showed that the number of child rape incidents was 199 last year, 170 in 2013 and 86 in 2012.
None of the cases reported this years have gone to trial and the list of accused include both adults, and shockingly, teenagers.
Asked why teenage boys are turning into rapists, Prof Zia Rahman, who teaches criminology at Dhaka University, told the Dhaka Tribune: “Due to a deep-rooted patriarchal thought process, boys and men alike are learning not to respect women. Institutions that work on sex education have also failed to emit adequate knowledge and raise awareness.”
Why are children increasingly becoming victims of rape? Prof Zia said this is happening because children are more vulnerable than adult women.
Asked what police have been doing to reduce rape incidents, Abdullah Al-Mamun, a deputy inspector general of police, said: “Investigation of rape cases gets top priority from us. If any police officials are found to have shown negligence in investigation, we take action against them as well.”
Source: Dhaka Tribune
Bangladesh Law Commission has found some gross anomalies in the mobile court act that lead to flawed trials by executive magistrates.
In a report on Tuesday, the commission said the Mobile Court Act 2009 that empowers executive magistrates to hold trials may become a repressive law if necessary remedial measures are not taken immediately.
The remedial measures include introducing new provisions for the offenders’ bail, scrapping the existing provisions for filing appeals with deputy commissioners and sending offenders to jail if they fail to instantly pay the monetary fine imposed by the mobile courts, according to the report.
“Instant execution of sentence of imprisonment in case of the offenders’ failure to instantly pay the fine imposed by the mobile courts very often results in violation of human rights,” it said.
The provision on instant execution can be found in section 9 (2) of the Mobile Court Act 2009. However, there is no provision for bail in this law, the report said.
“As a result, important human rights like the right to liberty are trampled very often,” commented the commission in the report prepared after examining the mobile court law.
Law Commission Chairman ABM Khairul Haque placed the report on Tuesday at a meeting of the parliamentary body on the law ministry and highlighted some important points in it.
According to the report, Section 9 (2) of the Mobile Court Act 2009 also runs counter to section 388 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898.
Section 388 empowers a court to order for payment of monetary fine in installments if an offender cannot pay it instantly. The court can even release him temporarily on bond.
The law commission in its report lauded section 388, which had been enacted over 117 years ago in the undivided Indian sub-continent.
“But the modern provision  of the Code of Criminal Procedure is not applicable to trials by mobile courts due to an overriding clause of the mobile court act,” the report said.
Contacted, Justice Khairul Haque declined to make any comment on the report which also made some recommendations to deal with the huge backlog of cases.
However, he yesterday said the members of the parliamentary body have supported the commission’s recommendations.
Authorised by law to recommend amendments or make new laws, the commission thinks that absence of a provision for bail of offenders in the mobile court act is a loophole in the law.
If anybody is sentenced to imprisonment for even one day, he can file an appeal against his conviction afterwards. So the offender has to serve in jail before he can file an appeal, which makes it a futile attempt to review the judgment, the report pointed out.
An individual, according to the mobile court law, can file an appeal with the district magistrate (or deputy commissioner) or additional district magistrate (or additional deputy commissioner).
If he is not satisfied with the verdict against his first appeal, only then he can file another appeal with the sessions judge’s court.
Making the DCs and the ADCs appellate authorities is termed by the law commission unnecessary and ineffective.
Referring to a newspaper report published in a national daily on September 9, 2014, the commission report said that in 98 percent of the cases the judgments, given by additional district magistrates of Dhaka, on appeals against mobile court verdicts have been cancelled by the sessions judge’s courts.
A lawyer, wishing anonymity, said this means both the mobile court verdicts and judgments of the additional district magistrates against appeals were wrong.
He said people who were convicted by mobile courts had to suffer, yet they have not got any compensation for their sufferings.
The commission focuses on another interesting point. A convict must file an appeal with a DC against his conviction according to the law. “This makes the entire law inconsistent [with the norms of justice],” the report said.
The original law on the mobile courts in 2007 did not empower the district bureaucrats to dispose of appeals against the judgments of the executive magistrates, who are also admin cadres.
But the Awami League-led government in 2009 made changes in the law, empowering the DCs and the ADCs with the authority to dispose of such appeals.
The law commission wants the Supreme Court to have some supervisory powers over the mobile courts.
In the report it said when a government official imposes a sentence, he exercises the full judicial power and jurisdiction in doing so.
“Therefore, appeals against the judgments of the mobile courts should be filed with the regular courts and the mobile courts like other regular courts should come under the supervision of the Supreme Court,” it asserted.
Officials of the law commission, however, said they do not support trials by the mobile courts. But the commission cannot speak against mobile courts due to the shortage of judicial officials.
They said the commission wants the mobile court system to continue for a certain period and more judicial officials should be appointed during that time so that they can run the mobile courts smoothly.
The commission cited references to mobile courts in India and Pakistan by judicial officials. In India, mobile court was the brainchild of late President APJ Abdul Kalam. The mobile courts have been run in those two countries to ensure justice for the poor in remote areas.
In Bangladesh, however, the aims and objectives for introduction of the mobile courts seem different.
The mobile courts have been introduced to empower admin officials with some judicial power who had lost their judicial powers completely following separation of the judiciary from the executive during the caretaker government’s tenure in November 2007. This had made them unhappy.
Upon assuming office in 2009, the AL-led government has empowered the mobile courts to keep the bureaucrats happy.
Source: Daily Star
Geneva, Paris, August 4, 2015 – The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders strongly condemns the statement issued by the Bangladeshi police which accuses NGOs Odhikar and the Bangladesh Human Rights Commission (BAMAK) of acting illegally and subversively, simply for having published reports on extrajudicial killings supposedly committed by the authorities.
On August 2, 2015, the Media and Public Relations wing of the Police Headquarters in Dhaka issued a statement condemning newspaper reports on extrajudicial killings which cited Odhikar, a member organisation of OMCT and FIDH, and BAMAK. The Press Release, which is entitled “Police did not commit extrajudicial killings. Statements of Odhikar and BAMAK are unlawful; only subversive campaigns”, affirms that the statements made by the two organisations “contravene the existing laws of Bangladesh, which is synonymous to challenging Rule of Law and the judicial system”.
The Police Press Release further states that questioning the activities of the police threatens the reputation of the police and amounts to defamation and a criminal act, and may be considered as a subversive activity.
“This new attack against independent civil society in Bangladesh is completely unacceptable and deepens the ongoing crackdown against critical voices inside the country. The scrutiny of governmental activities by NGOs is not a challenge to rule of law as affirmed in the statement; on the contrary, such questioning and scrutiny is absolutely essential to ensure the full respect of human rights in Bangladesh” said OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock.
The Observatory recalls that Odhikar has been under extreme pressure since August 2013 when authorities arrested Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan , Odhikar Secretary, member of OMCT General Assembly and Final Nominee for the Martin Ennals Award 2014, on trumped up charges related to his human rights work. Since then, attacks and harassment against Odhikar have been constant, including judicial harassment of both Mr. Khan and Mr. Nasiruddin Elan, Odhikar Director, and surveillance and repression against Odhikar, its staff, and their relatives.
“We fear another wave of repression and persecution against Odhikar and other independent organisations in Bangladesh. The language of this Police press release indicates an abuse of existing laws to repress legitimate human rights work, which violates international human rights law” stated FIDH President Karim Lahidji. “We therefore call on the EU and other foreign donors to call for the immediate end to the crackdown on civil society, and to express that free expression and association are necessary for the deepening of their relations with Bangladesh”.
This smear campaign takes place in an already repressive context for civil society due to the attempts by the Bangladesh authorities to stifle free expression and to severely restrict their work.
The Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act 2014, which was approved by the Cabinet in 2014 and is currently before the Parliamentin order to be passed into law, subjects the work of civil society organizations to increased control by the government and restricts foreign funding to Bangladeshi NGOs, which is a violation of human rights standards.
In addition, the newly proposed Cyber Security Act 2015 aims to further tighten the control of the authorities over free expression, going beyond the existing Information and Communication (ICT) Act which already criminalises defamatory and “anti-State” publications and has been used to target dissenting voices, in particular human rights defenders.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OBS) was created in 1997 by OMCT and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy to situations of repression against human rights defenders.
Source: FIDH statement
Human rights activists have warned that there are well founded fears that a local leader of an opposition group in the Rajshahi district, Dr Anowarul Islam maybe become a victim of extra-judicial killing through staged crossfire by police. Dr Anowarul Islam is a former leader of Shibir, a national student which is part of the main opposition alliance.
There are serious concerns that the staged killing may occur within the immediate future, as there are reports that secret policeman who are trained to carry out such illegal killings, have been sent to the area in preparation for the extra-judicial execution. Rights activists warn that the execution may occur within 24 hours.
Dr Anowarul Islam had been arrested on 28 July 2015, and after extreme torture was hospitalised. The current president of Rajshahi district Shibir, Marul Islam and the Social Welfare Secretary, Sayed Amin Mulhim have also been arrested alongside Dr Anowarul Islam, but police have not yet acknowledged the arrest, although arrested persons should be presented in court within 24 hours. There are fears that they may also potentially be victims of extra-judicial killing.