Surge in Arrests and Enforced Disappearances by Security Forces

handcuffs arrest

It has become a regular phenomenon in Bangladesh for law enforcement agencies to arrest people, and this has increased massively. This was stated in a report published by BBC on Friday 26th March 2015. Sayedul Islam of BBC Bangla prepared the report. For the readers here, the report is translated:

In Bangladesh regular people are frequently arrested by men claiming to be members of law enforcement agencies. Human right agencies are stating that their bullet riddled dead bodies are found later on, after several days they are shown arrested on different cases. And many are never found. The missing list covers names from average criminals to political leaders and activists.
On 17th April of 2012, midnight BNP leader Elias Ali and his driver was picked up right in front of his house. It has been three years since the disappearance with no trace found of them.

And now three years on, on 10th March 2015, another high ranked BNP leader Salah Uddin Ahmed was arrested from a house in Uttara by people claimed to be Detective Branch Police. Two weeks have passed since then and no trace of him is found. All the government law enforcement agencies have informed the court that none from them have captured or arrested Mr Ahmed. But his wife Hasina Ahmed stated that she has no doubt about the fact that law enforcement agencies have arrested her husband.

Hasina Ahmed said to BBC that “the house, gatekeeper, security guard and everyone has stated that Detective Brance police and state individuals have seized my husband.” Neighbours and nearby people of the house in Uttara from where it is alleged that Mr Ahmed was apprehended did not want to talk about this subject.

According to human right agency, Odhikar, from 2007 to 2009 a total of 111 people was picked up by men claiming to be from law enforcement agencies. According to rights agency, Ain O Salish Kendra, statistics in the years 2013 and 2014 160 people were taken away in the same manner in these two years. Later many of them were found dead. But most of them are untraceable.

Cases were filed at court about BNP leader Elias Ali, but his family found nothing. Mr Ali’s lawyer Mahbub Uddin Khokon said to the BBC, “we filed a case in the High Court regarding Elias Ali. But if the state is involved, then what can the court do? They said they didn’t arrest Elias Ali, they don’t have him. We don’t even know whether they conducted any further investigation. They are just sitting on it.”

According to BBC investigations, if anyone is kidnapped in the name of any agencies, police are very reluctant to accept cases or any general diary in the police station. A few days ago Ruma Khatun’s husband was picked up by men claimed to be DB police. She said, she wanted to lodge a case at the police station, but they accepted a general diary only.

However, the police authority has denied all the allegations and said they work within the periphery of law. Allegations which are made of picking up individuals and arresting people don’t happen in reality.

Police spokesman of Dhaka, Masudur Rahman, said to the BBC, “police are working in accordance with law. If anybody is arrested he/she is produced at court within 24 hours. Later if required he is interrogated in remand. But police are not involved with forced disappearances. Whenever such complaints are received police always investigates. But a speedy result is not always received. 

According to human right agencies, in the first two month of this year (2015), 21 people were taken away in the name of law enforcement agencies. Five dead bodies were found later and ten were submitted to the police station. However, the rest are without trace.

Human right activist, Nur Khan, has investigated some cases of arrests made by men claiming to be from law enforcement agencies. He told BBC that although such incidents are not new, in recent times political activists are becoming victims. Nur khan said, “it’s not a new phenomenon to be taken away by men in the name of law enforcements agencies. But before, we used to hear that these people were produced in court two days after the arrest and police claimed they arrested these people one day ago. But the recent trend shows that they are missing for months after months, year after year, no trace can be found. Before only the accused were taken away, but recently political activists are the victims. Mostly from the oppositions, and sometimes the government party activists are also becoming victims. Mr. Khan also stated, as these types of incidents are taking place with the consent of the state, there is no trial, and the victims’ family do not get any justice.

Usually men are the target of such kidnapping, but reports have come that for the first time on 14th January two women were seized by law enforcements agencies from Mithapukur, Rangpur.
One missing women is Mrs Nur Nahar, who was a school clerk. hHer daughter, Sumi, said that after the arrest she met once with her mother at the local RAB office. But now it is being claimed that she is not with them. Even they don’t know where she is now.

However,  RAB’s additional director, Colonel Ziaul Ahsan, denied the allegation of picking up and holding anyone. He said such accusations are made to defame RAB’s image. Colonel Ziaul Ahsan said to BBC, “I think RAB is the only organisation who always works to sustain human rights. But many people make accusation to belittle RAB. Sometimes people go into hiding and commits crimes, hurls crude bombs and put allegation on RAB that they are victim of enforced disappearances. I can say with certainty that RAB has a mandate. They have law and based on on that RAB always works.

A few years back the National Human Right Commission was formed in Bangladesh. They investigated some cases of human right violations, but their work is limited only to sending recommendations to the government. The commission said they are restricted by law. As a result they do not have any power to investigate the reports of forced disappearances made by RAB.

Commission chairman, Dr Mizanur Rahman, said to BBC, “It is stated in our law that, we cannot conduct any investigations against disciplinary forces. Therefore we could not investigate complaints of forced disappearances made against law enforcement agencies. We do not have the capability to investigate those cases and also we have legal limitations. But we investigated some cases of “gun fights”/”crossfires” and asked for the government’s statement. But in most cases no satisfactory answer was received. Actually we do not have any other option beyond suggesting to the government to take action.

When a family member is a victim of forced disappearance or goes missing, besides enduring the mental turmoil, the family goes through legal complexity which does not have any solution. Especially complexity arises in terms of inheritance. The family carries on the expectations year after year that their relatives might come back one day. But last few years statistics of Bangladesh shows that in most of the cases hope does not turn into reality.

Source: BBC Bangla and Naya Diganta