Home minister denies 'forced disappearances'
There is nothing called forced disappearance in the law, Home Minister Shahara Khatun said in parliament yesterday.
She made the remark when BNP lawmaker AM Mahbub Uddin Khokon of Noakhali-1 constituency in a scripted question enquired how many incidents of forced disappearances and secret killings happened since the Awami League-led government took office in 2009.
The home minister, however, talked about abduction cases.
She said a total of 537 people were abducted in the last three years, of whom 480 were rescued. Efforts continue to rescue others.
In a brief scripted reply, she said 127 people were abducted in 2011 alone, and all but 20 of them were rescued by now.
"Sixty-eight cases filed concerning the issue have already been disposed of while 17 other cases are under investigation. Legal action has been taken against people involved," Shahara told the House.
Incidents of disappearances and secret killings surfaced in the last two years. Accounts of the victims' relatives and in some cases those of witnesses suggested that plainclothes law enforcers had picked them up and whisked them away in microbuses or other vehicles.
Apart from different rights organisations at home and abroad, the main opposition BNP, even components of the ruling AL-led grand alliance have expressed concern over mysterious disappearances and secret killings in the country, and called for immediate investigations into all such incidents.
They also alleged that disappearances and secret killings had increased in recent times causing panic among people.
Home Minister Shahara Khatun faced severe criticism when she said she had learnt about such incidents only from newspaper reports.
Reportedly, police showed reluctance in registering cases on forced disappearances and secret killings. Besides, Rapid Action Battalion and police personnel denied their involvement in the incidents.
Addressing a public meeting at Sheikh Kamal Stadium in Gopalganj, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on January 1 said all incidents of secret killings and disappearances would come under probe to bring culprits to book.
She, however, alleged that BNP had resorted to killing and kidnapping across the country in fulfilling its political mission.
COUNTER TERRORISM UNIT
The government has made a move to form a counter terrorism unit in the police force to combat militancy and terrorism, the home minister said yesterday.
Replying to lawmakers' queries in parliament, Shahara also said a process of creating 962 posts under different designations was underway for the unit.
Moreover, the government has initiated setting up forensic laboratories in all divisional cities for faster identification of evidence to help catch criminals, she said.