Enforced disappearance goes unabated

August 30, 2012

Int’l Day of the Disappeared today
Enforced disappearance keeps taking place, with 67 cases reported in Bangladesh after the assumption of office by the Awami League-led government.
International Day of the Disappeared will be observed today in Bangladesh as elsewhere in the world.
According to rights group Odhikar, although the number of people who disappeared is high, 67 cases after the Awami League and Jatiya Party-led alliance government came to power in 2009 are clearly of the category of ‘enforced disappearance’ as defined by the international human rights law, particularly the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
Enforced disappearance are said to have taken place when the act is alleged to have happened with the authorisation, support, or acquiescence of a state or state agencies or political organisation, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the person’s fate and whereabouts, with the intent of placing the victim outside the protection of the law, thus further violating his fundamental human rights.
The 67 victims of enforced disappearance during the present government’s tenure include the Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s organising secretary Ilias Ali, also a former lawmaker, who disappeared from Banani in the capital around midnight past April 17.
Ilias Ali disappeared at a time when incidents of secret killings and enforced disappearances assumed an alarming height amid protests by rights defenders.
The disappearance of labour leader Aminul Islam on April 4 and his killing on April 5 significantly harmed the government’s international image and proved again the horrendous state of intimidation and repression suffered by garment workers.
Enforced disappearance, however, is not a new phenomenon in the country, rights activists said.
National minority leader Kalpana Chakma disappeared from New Lalyaghona, Baghaichari in Rangamati on June 12, 1996.
Although enforced disappearance has been committed for long, the heinous form of rights violation has increased during the tenure of the present government, causing serious concern of national and international rights organisations as none of the incidents have ever been investigated by any independent investigation agency, said poet and rights activist Farhad Mazhar, rights activist Shahdeen Malik, also a Supreme Court lawyer and BRAC University law dean, and Odhikar’s secretary Adilur Rahman Khan.
The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances on June 14 urged the Bangladesh government to take immediate steps to stop enforced disappearances of the people allegedly after being picked up by law enforcers.
The federation, a platform of rights organisations of families of the disappeared and advocates working directly on the issue of enforced disappearance in the region, made the urge in a letter it sent to the permanent representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations.
Ambassadors of nine European countries on May 9 said that the authorities concerned should conduct thorough investigations of the incidents of enforced disappearance and killings, including the disappearance of Ilias Ali and Aminul Islam.
Enforced disappearance, killing, street violence, general strike and corruption ‘are creating’ a negative image of Bangladesh abroad, they said at a press conference.
The ambassadors called for a resolution to political problems through dialogues between political parties which they said would create a ‘welcoming atmosphere’ for foreign companies to invest in Bangladesh.
The United States on July 20 said that there were credible reports that the Rapid Action Battalion, a paramilitary law enforcement agency composed of policemen and army soldiers, was involved in some extrajudicial killings and disappearances.
‘Due to “Leahy vetting requirements”, we are barred from providing RAB with any form of training other than that related to human rights,’ said Robert Blake, assistant secretary of the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs in his testimony at Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the US Congress in Washington on July 20.
He said that the US government embedded a retired US marshal within the battalion for four months in 2011 to help stand up and operationalise an internal affairs unit that will provide a much-needed mechanism to hold accountable those who commit human rights violations.
Odhikar is particularly concerned about the manifested lack of sensitivity to the issue and absence of any steps that could assure the government’s commitment to good governance with regard to disciplining the law and order enforcement apparatus of the country, Adilur Rahman said.
Farhad, Shahdeen and Adilur said that without an independent inquiry of the incidents and legal equipment and steps against such a crime, enforced disappearance would not be stopped.
They urged the government to accede to the International Convention of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, signed by 91 countries and ratified by 34.
The convention was adopted in 2006 by the United Nations General Assembly and it came into force on December 23, 2010.
Against the backdrop, International Day of the Disappeared will be observed today. Different organisations have planned elaborate programmes to mark the day.
Odhikar will bring out processions in 10 district headquarters and submit memorandums to the prime minister through the deputy commissioners demanding independent inquiry of the disappearances and an immediate ratification of the International Convention of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

Courtesy of New Age

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