[29 August 2021, Dhaka] The United Nations adopted the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances in 2010 to protect individuals from enforced disappearances. The Convention declares widespread and systematic enforced disappearances as crimes against humanity. At the same time, to create awareness and sensitivity in this regard, the United Nations have declared that 30 August of every year to commemorate the victims of enforced disappearances. The Convention refers to the arrest, detention, abduction, or deprivation of freedom of movement of a person by a government force, group of individuals, or a party under the authority, assistance, or covert cooperation of a person, concealing a person’s status or position and thereby depriving a person of their legal recourse.
The Government of Bangladesh has repeatedly denied the occurrence of enforced disappearances at national and international levels. They claimed that there is no term as ‘Enforced Disappearance’ in the country’s legal framework. Dismissing such allegations, they instead provide a counter-narrative and blame the disappeared persons for going into hiding for personal reasons. However, there is enough evidence to warrant these allegations in the descriptions of family, relatives, eyewitnesses, or the fact-finding by journalists or human rights organisations. There have been media reports that, in several instances, arrests have been made a few days after such detention. According to the information gathered by ASK from various media outlets, from 2007 to 2021 (25 August), the victims’ families and relatives have complained that 614 people went missing. Of these, the dead bodies of 78 people were recovered later, 94 people were shown arrested, and 57 people were returned. Precise information about the others was not known in the media. It is to be particularly noted that in 2019, the UN Committee Against Torture reviewed Bangladesh’s progress on the compliance of the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In its review, the Committee mentioned that unannounced detentions, which the Committee described as enforced disappearances, regardless of whether they were killed or returned after such disappearance, were defined as ‘enforced disappearance’ under international human rights law. In their concluding observations, the Committee recommended that all instances of detentions and deaths of detainees be investigated expeditiously by an independent investigative body outside the accused force and in accordance with the International Convention on the Prevention of Enforced Disappearances, recognise such disappearances as a crime.
In this context, on 30 August, the eve of the International Day for the Prevention of Enforced Disappearances, Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) makes the following demands to the Government of Bangladesh and the National Human Rights Commission:
To the Government:
- Immediately locate all missing persons and return them to their families;
- Establish a system for filing complaints in this regard and to publicise it widely;
- Establish an independent and impartial commission to prevent disappearances and ensure proper investigation of victims and every such complaints;
- Establish justice by bringing the perpetrators to justice and ensuring the proper rehabilitation and security of the missing person and his family
- Ratify the International Convention on the Prevention of Enforced Disappearance;
- Bring reform in the existing legal framework to ensure that such cases are brought to justice without refusing to acknowledge the allegations of disappearances; label such instances as a specific crime and not as ‘kidnapping’.
To the National Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh:
- Investigate all the allegations in this regard; take adequate measures to find the disappeared persons and ensure justice for the victims; in this case, continue strong communication with the Government to remove any legal impediments in the National Human Rights Commission Act 2009 as soon as possible;
- Take initiatives to provide legal and moral assistance to the victims or their families; and
- Conduct a national hearing on the grievances raised by the families of the persons disappeared.
On the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance, ASK extends its condolences to the families of all the persons disappeared. ASK believes that, in establishing a just and human rights-based state, the Government must stop such a heinous human rights violation. ASK demands the Government to show its goodwill in preventing disappearances.
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