3 Int’l Groups: ‘Rights abuses’ figure high in reports to UN
The allegations of repression of Bangladeshi opposition political activists and the press featured prominently in the submission made to the United Nations Human Rights Council by three international rights organisations.
The submissions are for a review of Bangladesh's human rights situation, scheduled for November this year.
The report submitted by the Asian Legal Resource Centre, Committee to Protect Journalists and Robert F Kennedy Human Rights (RFK Human Rights) detailed the number of BNP men killed in clashes since 2022.
Every four years, the UN Human Rights Council reviews Bangladesh's human rights situation as part of its Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
During the UPR process, member states of the council take stock of how Bangladesh is performing and accordingly make recommendations to the country, which can either be implemented or rejected.
The submission was sent for the 44th session of the UPR Working Group to be held in November when Bangladesh and 13 other states' human rights situation will be reviewed.
At least 24 BNP leaders and activists were shot dead, it said.
"On November 19, 2022, Rafiqul Islam Nayan of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD), the pro-BNP student body, was shot at close range by police as they arrested BNP activists who were distributing leaflets for a rally," detailed the report.
On July 31, 2022, police opened fire on a BNP procession in Bhola town. BNP-affiliate Swechchhasebak Dal leader Abdur Rahim Matbbar was shot and killed, while Bhola district unit JCD President Mohammad Noore Alam also died on August 3 after being shot, it said.
The report also included the death of a BNP activist who was shot on September 1, 2022, during the party's anniversary programmes in Narayanganj.
"On November 28, 2022, Mohammad Shahjahan, a former BNP MP from Patuakhali-3 constituency, who was attacked by Jubo League and Chhatra League supporters on his way to a rally in Barishal, died in a hospital," stated the report.
It was also reported that mobile network operators were instructed to suspend high-speed internet services in the capital's Golapbagh area where the BNP was to hold its December 10 rally at 11:00am.
The report also detailed the death of writer Mushtaq Ahmed while being incarcerated under the Digital Security Act, as well as the torture of cartoonist Ahmed Kishore.
"Kishore stated that plainclothes men detained him from his Dhaka home three days before his formal arrest, then blindfolded and transferred him to an unknown location, where he was interrogated, threatened, denied access to adequate food, and severely beaten, leading to leg ailments and long-term hearing loss in his right ear. He was also allegedly denied access to adequate medical treatment. Kishore was denied bail at least six times before his release on bail in March, 2021, and continues to face charges under the DSA. He has since fled to Sweden," said the report.
The submission includes the arrest of Raghunath Kha after he reported on land rights in Satkhira on January 23, 2023.
"The police allegedly denied that Kha was in their custody and did not present him in court until 5:00pm on January 24, in violation of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which requires the arrested person to be presented before court within 24 hours. Kha was unable to stand properly in court after he was allegedly beaten up, electrocuted, and threatened in police custody," said the submission.
The report states that Prothom Alo reporter Rozina Islam faces up to 14 years in prison or a maximum penalty of a death sentence.
"Islam was granted bail on the condition to surrender her passport even though there is no provision for conditional bail in the Code of Criminal Procedure. While the court temporarily permitted the return of her passport for six months in January 2022, Islam has since had to request the court to return her passport whenever she travels abroad," it said.
It also added that although the Dhaka Metropolitan Police's Detective Branch submitted its final investigative report to a Dhaka court and called for her case to be dropped due to lack of evidence, the court ordered the Police Bureau of Investigation to investigate further.
The report detailed how Nusrat Shahrin Raka, sister of US-based Bangladeshi exiled journalist Kanak Sarwar and her three minor sons were detained, and Raka was arrested under the DSA, and then later on for the possession of methamphetamines, which police said was recovered from her home.
"Instead of holding the perpetrators accountable, Bangladeshi officials have repeatedly denied the existence of human rights violations in the country. They continue to claim that enforced disappearances do not happen in the country; allegedly disappeared persons were not missing, but in hiding or drowned," stated the report.
Further, on January 23, 2022, two sanctioned Rab officials were awarded medals for "their bravery and service to the country in 2021", said the report, adding that on September 30, 2022, sanctioned Chowdhury Abdullah Al-Mamun was promoted to Inspector General of Police.
Following the sanctions, law-enforcement officers targeted the families of victims of enforced disappearances, the report alleged. "According to Maayer Daak, the authorities visited and threatened at least 10 victims' families within one month of the imposition of the sanctions, sometimes forcing them to sign false statements that their relative had not been forcibly disappeared and they had intentionally misled the police," added the report.
Other cases of reprisals against journalists, and human rights activists were also included in details.