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No headway to opposition leader disappearance

| by Jessica Fox

( April 28, 2012, Dhaka, Sri Lanka Guardian) The 96-hour deadline set by ex-Prime Minister and now leader of the opposition in Bangladeshi parliament, Khaleda Zia will end at the midnight of April 28, 2012 (Saturday), while there is no sign of any progress in returning Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader M Ilias Ali. Ministers and leaders of the ruling Awami League are clearly in the wrong competition of making irritating comments, while lately shipping minister in the current government, Shahjahan Khan said the opposition leader was “abducted by Islamist agents”. It is important noting here that, according to reports in vernacular dailies in Bangladesh, quoting eye-witnesses, Ilias Ali was forcibly abducted by plain-clothe officials of an intelligence agency, while a police officer, who was present on the spot, indicated that members of the army intelligence picked up Ilias Ali during late hours from a place. In this case, what Bangladeshi minister said has simply echoed the earlier claim of the government that “Islamist agents have penetrated inside Bangladesh Armed Forces”. Hypothetically saying, the ruling party is putting the blame of abducting opposition leader Ilias Ali on country’s armed forces, while it was already claimed by most of the sitting ministers as well as the Prime Minister that, a large number of Islamists were already “planted” inside Bangladesh Army.

Under international law, an enforced disappearance is any form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the state or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support, or acquiescence of the state, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person
While M Ilias Ali’s whereabouts is totally unknown, people doubt if he is still alive or would ever return to his family. Major segment of the people in Bangladesh believe, Ilias Ali and his chauffer might have already been killed in custody of his abductors. The situation in Bangladesh can be easily understood by reading a commentary in Dhaka’s leading English language newspaper The Daily Star, which writes -- “The government, Awami league and other components of the ruling coalition are not working in coordination for a way out of crises centred on issues like a BNP leader's disappearance, railwaygate scandal and power outage.”

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday asked the Bangladesh government to immediately conduct independent and impartial investigation into the growing number of cases where opposition members and political activists have vanished without trace.

The most recent episode on April 17, 2012 involved Ilias Ali, secretary of the Sylhet Division of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the HRW said in a web post. Ali's case is part of an alarming rise in such incidents, including those of opposition members and political activists. The Human Rights Watch recently expressed concern over the April 4 abduction and subsequent death of Aminul Islam, a prominent labor rights activist.
Ain-O-Sailash Kendra, a leading human rights group in Bangladesh, has documented the disappearance of least 22 people in 2012 alone. According to Odhikar, another Dhaka-based human rights group, more than 50 people have disappeared since 2010.

"The rise in disappearances, particularly of opposition members and activists, requires a credible and independent investigation," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The government has taken no serious steps to ensure such an investigation of these disappearances or to prevent them in the first place."

Ilias Ali and his driver, Ansar Ali, have both vanished. The police found Ali's abandoned car and mobile phone in a parking lot near his house in Banani in central Dhaka at around midnight on April 17. There has been no sign of Ali or his driver since then.

Adams said that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called on the police to investigate Ali's disappearance, but also said that she believed Ali and his driver were "hiding" at his party's orders to create a situation that would allow the opposition to blame the government.

He said Human Rights Watch has long documented abductions and killings by Bangladeshi security forces, especially the Rapid Action Battalion (Rab). In its World Report 2012, Human Rights Watch noted that although the number of Rab killings had dropped following domestic and international criticism, there had been a sharp increase in enforced disappearances, with persons disappearing after last being seen in the custody of security agencies leading to concerns that security agencies have replaced one form of abuse with another. Bangladeshi authorities routinely refuse to confirm the detention or fate of those persons who disappear after being seen in their custody.

Under international law, an enforced disappearance is any form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the state or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support, or acquiescence of the state, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, he said.

Adams said Home Minister Shahara Khatun, speaking in January, dismissed Human Rights Watch's allegations of possible security force involvement in abuses and laid the entire blame for disappearances on criminal elements.
"The government of Sheikh Hasina has made repeated promises to end abuses and ensure justice and accountability," Adams said. "But in spite of these public pledges, the government consistently dismisses or ignores evidence of abuses by the security forces. This is why an independent investigation into all cases of disappearances is urgently required."
Human Rights Watch further expressed concern about apparent excessive use of force by the security forces against protesters throughout Bangladesh during a general strike called by the BNP to protest Ali's disappearance. Since April 21, two protesters, Monwar Miya and another who is yet to be identified, have been killed in clashes between protesters and security forces.

It said thousands more protesters have reportedly been injured and about one thousand have been arrested. Human Rights Watch called on the government to ensure a full and effective investigation into the two deaths, and ensure security forces only use the minimum necessary force to deal with violent crimes, as set out in the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.

"While the police are allowed to stop protesters from committing acts of criminal violence, they must not use excessive force to quell the protests," Adams said.

HRW’s statement centering the current situation and the cases of disappearance in Bangladesh will ring the bell very loud around the world, though the ruling party is seen turning deaf to any such international outcry on the issues of disappearance and extra-judicial murders.

Politics in Bangladesh is getting difficult gradually with the clear sign of cloud deepening in the sky of democracy in that tiny south Asian nation. Whatever interpretation the rulers may try giving in Bangladesh, it has become clear that a team of 100 youths selected from the student and youth wings of Awami League have hands behind most of the cases of disappearances and murders. This group codenamed “Crusader-100” returned to Bangladesh after taking commando training in India directly under the supervision of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). This deadly squad was provided a “hit-list” of 78 people, which also had the name of missing opposition leader Ilias Ali. Some of the names in the same list are, Amanullah Aman, Mirza Abbas, Sadeque Hossain Khoka, Brig. Hannan Shah, Goyeshwar Chandra Roy, M Ilias Ali, Habibun Nabi Sohel, Abdullah Al Noman, Kazi Zafar Ahmed, Mir Qashim Ali, Col. Oli Ahmad, Barrister Abdur Razzaque, Shafiul Alam Pradhan, ASM Abdur Rob, Mufti Fazlul Haque Amini, Moulana Fazlul Karim, Shafiq Rehman, Mehnaz Rashid, Abdul Awal Mintoo, Capt. Tarek Rahman and Tajul Islam Faruk.

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