Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Released ‘Secret Detainees’ in Bangladesh

A cartoon on secret detentions in Bangladesh. Credit: credit Mehedi Haque/The New Age
A cartoon on secret detentions in Bangladesh. Credit: Mehedi Haque/The New Age

The Bangladesh government has blocked The - and so am publishing this recent article to make it available to those in Bangladesh (until of course this website is blocked!)
- read the article that caused the blocking
- read about the government's blocking of The Wire

We Shouldn’t Expect Released ‘Secret Detainees’ in Bangladesh to Talk About What Happened

Three men recently released have denied that they were in law enforcement custody. That’s not surprising, given the threats and intimidation involved.
Representative image of Bangladesh police. Credit: Reuters/Adnan Abidi
Representative image of Bangladesh police. Credit: Reuters/Adnan Abidi
Last week, academic Mubashar Hasan, allegedly held in secret detention by Bangladesh’s military intelligence agency for 44 days, was released blindfolded onto the streets of Dhaka. This followed the release a day earlier of journalist Utpal Das, also believed to have been in secret custody for over two months. In the same week, another disappeared man, Aminur Rahman, was also ‘released’, again apparently from secret detention, though this time he was brought to court and ordered back into state custody after police accused him of involvement in a bomb attack.

Bangladesh Government Blocks The Wire

Following this article, the Bangladesh government blocked the Indian news website The Wire.

Bangladesh Government Blocks The Wire

The move came after The Wire published an article on the role of Bangladesh’s military intelligence agency in the illegal pick-up and detention of academic Mubashar Hasan.

Academic Mubashar Hasan. Credit: Twitter
Academic Mubashar Hasan. Credit: Twitter
The Bangladesh government has ordered the blocking of internet access to The Wire a day after it published an article on the role of the country’s military intelligence agency in the illegal pick-up and secret detention of the university academic Mubashar Hasan.
On Thursday, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) e-mailed all international internet gateway (IIG) operators ordering them to “block the domain …”
The instruction stated that this requirement was “urgent” and that “the commission will take necessary steps  against those IIGs who will not comply with the instructions of BTRC.” (sic)

The article blocked by the Bangladesh government

The academic, Mubashar Hasan has now been released, but a month ago, the Bangladesh government blocked the website The Wire, a day after this article was published.

Bangladesh Academic Mubashar Hasan “Held by Military Intelligence Agency”

Academic Mubashar Hasan. Credit: Twitter
Academic Mubashar Hasan. Credit: Twitter
Bangladesh’s military intelligence agency, the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), is secretly detaining academic Mubashar Hasan, security and political sources have told The Wire.
According to the sources, the DGFI picked up Hasan, who works as an assistant professor at North South University (NSU) in Dhaka, soon after he attended a meeting at the United Nations headquarters in the city on November 7.
This information, which contradicts pro-government media who have sought to portray Hasan as a ‘militant’ who went into hiding, confirms the fear widely held by his colleagues and friends that he had become another victim of the increasingly widespread practice in Bangladesh of “enforced disappearances”.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Disappearances since 2016 - the men subsequently killed

Below are the details of 28 people picked up by Bangladesh law enforcement authorities since 2016, secretly detained for different periods of time, and then subsequently killed.

To see the main page on disappearances, and see the list of those who remain missing since 2016, click here.

The information below is based on information from the human rights organisation Odhikar direct interviews with families as well as media news reports.

Out of over 90 reported disappearances in 2016, 21 people were subsequently killed (12 of them being opposition Jamaat-e-Islami activists). The information about these 21 people was first published in the recent HRW report

Out of over 80 reported disappearances in 2017, 7 people were subsequently killed

These figures do not include examples of militants allegedly picked up and allegedly killed - in cases like this. These are allegedly widespread, but are difficult to verify.

If you have any further information on these or other enforced disappearances in Bangladesh, please e-mail Bangladesh Politico

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Disappearances in last two years - the men still missing

Updated: January 22, 2018

Disappearing people has now become a well known practice undertaken by Bangladesh law enforcement agencies - a systematic technique by which a person is secretly detained for varying periods of time totally outside the law, their whereabouts unknown with the state denying any knowledge of the person.

After spending a period of time in secret detention - usually weeks or months - there are four possible outcomes:
  • the person is killed. In 2016, out of over 90 disappeared, 21 were killed; In 2017, out of about 80 disappeared, 7 so far have been killed
  • the person is simply released on the streets. This happens, but it unusual
  • the person is taken to the court and 'formally arrested' with the police concocting a story that they were arrested the previous day. They are then, "legally", sent to jail. This is what happens to most people.
  • the person remains disappeared. In 2016, out of over 90 disappeared, 8 remain missing; In 2017, out of about 80 disappeared, 17 remain missing
The people picked up and secretly detained fall into a number of categories of people. There are:

- those that are linked to opposition politics, sometimes at a senior level;

- those the authorities suspect, rightly or wrongly, are involved in militancy in some way;

- those who for one political reason or the other, it is useful for the state to secretly detain;

- those involved in conflict within the Awami League;

- those involved in other kinds of private conflicts where one of the parties to the conflict has the power to obtain the use of a law enforcement agency to do his bidding;

The pick ups are primarily undertaken by the Detective Branch of the Police, the Counter Terrorism Unit (which has emerged out of the DB), or by the para-military organisation, the Rapid Action Battalion - though RAB's involvement seems to be declining in recent years. The ordinary police are also involved, as are sometimes the country's intelligence agencies in particular the country's military intelligence agency, DGFI.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Inter-parliamentary union in Dhaka: Is this really going on?

Prime minister meets with speakers of 19 ipu member states
One must have more than a sneaking regard for how the Awami League government has managed to persuade the Inter-Parliamentary Union to host its assembly in Bangladesh this week with more than 650 MPs from 132 countries apparently attending.

The IPU may not have a high threshold of standards for membership, but one would expect - or at least hope - that since the organisation’s constitution suggests it is concerned about ‘representative institutions’ it would scrutinise the parliaments of the countries which sought to host its assemblies.

Well, in relation to Bangladesh, it seems it did not.

At the last election, in 2014, a majority of the parliamentary seats were uncontested and the remaining ones remained mostly uncompetitive. Even though polls showed that a free and fair election would have resulted in a close contest, possibly with the BNP alliance winning, just about every seat went to a member of the Awami League or its alliance of parties.

Not quite so representative.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

UN's 14 key demands on Bangladesh government human rights record

The United Nations Human Rights Committee - which assesses state parties' compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - published its report on Tuesday setting out its observations on Bangladesh government 's compliance with the convention.

This report followed the government providing to the committee written and oral evidence of its claimed compliance.

Below are 14 key demands made by the committee along with extracts of what the committee stated.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Bangladesh government at the UN Human Rights Committee

Anisul Huq, the Bangladesh Law Minister, responding to
questions at the UN Human Rights Committee
17 years ago, in September 2000, Bangladesh's Awami League government ratified the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Under the treaty, within a year, the government was required to provide the UN Human Rights Committee a report on its compliance. But it failed to do so, as did the subsequent BNP 2001– 2006 government, the 2007 to 2008 emergency caretaker government and the 2009 to 2014 Awami League government.

A year into its new term of office, and 15 years after the initial ratification, the Awami League government did finally submit its first report which earlier this month came up for consideration before the Human Rights Committee.

Though the Committee has no teeth, it was nonetheless refreshing to see the committee put the Bangladesh government though its paces on two separate days - something which one does not see much of these days inside Bangladesh, as the country has a parliament without a proper opposition, and an increasingly restricted (and nationalist) media unwilling (or unable) to ask hard and concerted questions.

So what did we learn from the law minister, Anisul Huq, who represented the government in Geneva? Here are my 8 most notable inaccuracies – other people will no doubt find others - along with four other interesting government comments.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Daily Star, Padma Bridge and Canada's Federal court

Over a month ago, the Daily Star published a front page news article on a Canadian court decision dealing with the admissibility of wiretap evidence in a trial involving three men alleged to have been involved in a conspiracy to corrupt a Padma bridge consultancy contract.

The Daily Star is one of Bangladesh's great success stories. It seeks to be an independent and fearless newspaper, and though it may not always succeed,  it often does, and for its efforts it has been roundly punished by the government - in advertising bans, attacks by the prime minister and her son, and an organised effort to file criminal cases against its editor.

On this occasion, however, the Daily Star failed to report independently or accurately about this judgement and gave further steam to a false narrative widely propogated by Bangladesh's governing party spokespersons - which has indeed now resulted in a High Court order seeking the establishment of a commission of inquiry.