– Kamal Ahmed*
There is no practice of forcible disappearance of persons in Bangladesh. This is the claim of Ministers during last few years inside and outside the country. So repeat of the same utterance in the tongue of the Law Minister in the UN CAT last was not unexpected. It was even such said with presentation of statistics of the untraced persons in the USA and UK that in those countries no clamor takes place in the mass media with respect to the thousands of persons the whereabouts of whom are not found. The Law Minister said that many persons are abducted due to various reasons, get self-disguised and subsequently return. Moreover, many persons propagate these self-disappearance or abduction with a view to injuring the image of the government due to political purposes.
As because the government is not ready to agree that forced disappearance of persons takes place in our country, so it can be deduced that they don’t feel any necessity of signing “The International Charter on the Protection of All Persons from Forced Disappearance.” From our political parties and civil society also a strong pressure or demand for signing this Charter has never been made.
But it is not that the government has any effort to follow the Charters that have already been signed. As for example International Charter on the Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). If the government honored the above Charter it would not be possible on the part of a law abiding democratic government not to allow opposition parties year after year for holding meetings and rallies.
Let us come back to forcible disappearance of persons. To understand the difference between the carrying off and missing or being untraced, how the forcible disappearance has been defined in the International Charter for Protection of All from Carrying Off can be seen. Section 2 of the Charter says “Any representative of the state or empowered supported by the state or at the tacit consent of the state arresting, detaining, abducting anybody or in any other way to deprive him of his freedom and disagreeing to admit the matter of depriving the missing person of his independence, keeping his existence secret so that he remains out of the protection of law- would be considered as forcible disappearance. Clearly anybody being abducted by a culprit circle or for deceiving a creditor or to avoid a creditor or to escape arrest going into self-disguise- none of the persons fall in this definition.
And certainly any family won’t accuse a government or the state for a member missing who has himself left home on an annoyance with another member of this family.
On August 26, Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) published a list of forcefully disappeared persons in Bangladesh form 2009 to 2019, They have names of 532 persons. A statement is there when, from where, who, on what identity, how everyone of them was carried off. In the list there is also the incidence which occurred to the lot of everybody of them. The allegation of their family, friends, colleagues and eye-witnesses is that those who abducted their near and dear ones did it on the identity of the members of the law and order protecting forces.
In many cases the victims were taken away on the plea of interrogation. But later the family or friends-relations of the victim could not have any information about their near and dear ones at offices of local Police Station or any other law and order enforcement agencies (RAB, Intelligence Branch, etc.). The number of such untraced persons is many. Perhaps many families victim of ill-luck, have suddenly come to know that the dead body of their dear person was lying somewhere. Those who were comparatively lucky, they were shown arrested from any other place on a different accusation after few days, weeks or months.
Those who are much talked about a very few of them were discovered at any other human habitation in their illness. Inevitably they did not remember anything about the time of their disappearance; they could not tell anything about it. We pray that in future they may get back their memory. That they have not been carried off, he went into self confinement to embarrass the government- we shall have a sigh of relief if they can recollect a memory of this sort. On that case our Ministers and smart law enforcement officials would be able to make all believe with boast that they are not involved in any unjust act.
If Bangladesh would have signed the anti-forced disappearance Charter it would have to submit reports to Forced Disappearance Committee at regular intervals like that of anti Persecution Committee. And the country would have to face different questions. But it is not that the country is relieved of the problem as it is not a signatory. Here is another Committee by UN Human Rights Council which is known as Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance (WGEID). This Committee works with the involuntary disappearance cases on the basis of the petitions of the families for the victimized persons carried off and the information of the NGOs. Communicating with government they make efforts to locate the position and fate of the involuntarily disappeared person.
In the latest records (prepared in July, 2019) of the expert committee of the United Nations it is found that the mystery of 61 forcibly disappeared persons in Bangladesh has not yet been unveiled. The Committee has requested the government to provide information on an urgent basis of 5 persons out of the above 61 persons. Due to the rise of incidents of involuntary disappearance of persons this Committee sent letters to the government by expressing concern on May 4, 2011, March 9, 2016, February 22, 2017 and June 29 last. The Committee issued separate letter on March 12, 2013 requesting the government for inviting it for a visit to Bangladesh. Although they wrote letters to the government 5 times reminding of their request for visit to Bangladesh the government made no response.
We began with the context of submission of Bangladesh in CAT. In the final observation that CAT has published no trustworthiness of the explanation put up by the government has earned like that of the other complaints of persecution. They did not get answer of most of those questions in respect of the events that they specifically made in the Committee meeting. In the words of the Committee, ‘indiscriminate robbing of individual freedom through state officials, killing of many of them and the innumerable and reasonable failure to disclose about their existence or what has happened to their fate the Committee is deeply concerned with it. By using distinct words like unacknowledged detention that means undeclared or unrecognized captivity the Committee called for inquiring all these complaints and made seven recommendations on this matter. About inquiry the Committee has said in respect of unacknowledged detention, forcible disappearance and death in custody quick and detailed inquiry of all these complaints such an authority is to be ensured so that it becomes different from the authority involved in the incidence of detention.
A greater part of the general observation of the Committee is the comprehensiveness of the allegation of indescrimianate misuse of power and persecution by the law and order enforcement agencies. The most serious part of their concern is the refusal of the Police in accepting the complaints of the family of the victimized of persecution and forced detention and threat to the complainant person at a later time, being victim of harassment and retaliation. From the current year Bangladesh has been elected uncontested for 3 years as a member of the UN Human Rights Council in the regional quota. So as a member state the matter of upliftment of human rights conditions by Bangladesh is necessary from the moral point of view. If the government is really self confident that there happens nothing in Bangladesh to be termed as forced detention and these are basically propaganda, it should in no time do three things; these are-independent and impartial inquiry, signing of anti-involuntary confinement Charter and inviting UN Forced Disappearance Committee to visit Bangladesh.E
** Translated into English by ‘The Economy’ Analyst.