Forced Disappearance: Haas meets the victims’ families
US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas visited the home of a victim of enforced disappearance in Dhaka's Shaheenbagh area yesterday morning.
The families of some other victims were also there and they shared their ordeals with the ambassador.
Haas went to the house of BNP leader Sajedul Islam Sumon, who has been missing since 2013, around round 9:00am and left at 9:35am, said Sumon's sister Sanjida Islam.
The event was arranged by "Mayer Dak", a platform that organises programmes demanding the return of such victims. Sumon's mother is a key organiser of the platform.
A spokesperson for the US embassy said Haas had to leave the house early out of security concerns. "We have informed the matter to the higher authorities."
Some members of "Mayer Kanna" took position in and around the house before the ambassador's arrival. "They created a noisy situation and tried to talk to the ambassador when he was entering our home," said Sanjida.
Mayer Kanna is a platform of families of the victims of 1977 court martial during the regime of late president Ziaur Rahman. It has been demanding justice for the victims.
Later in the day, at a press briefing, Foreign Minister Abdul Momen said the US ambassador met him to inform him of a situation developing when the envoy went to Sumon's home.
Ambassador's security personnel advised him to leave as soon as possible, otherwise his vehicle could be blocked, the minister said.
"Out of security concerns, he left immediately and he is disappointed," the minister said.
Momen said, "I told him [ Haas] that protecting him and his people is our responsibility. I asked him whether anyone had attacked him or his people. He said no, but his car seems to have been scratched but he was not sure about it."
The minister asked the ambassador to find out how the information of his visit was leaked. He also said the embassy did not inform beforehand the foreign ministry about his visit.
He said he told the ambassador, "We cannot keep the media restrained. Our media is very active, though you say there is no freedom of speech."
About the gathering, the minister told the ambassador that he cannot stop people from going someplace. "… We can only keep them away for your protection.
"If anyone attacks you or your people and harms public property, only then we can arrest them. Otherwise, we can do nothing."
Meanwhile, Sanjida told The Daily Star, "We have been demanding the return of our loved ones for around 10 years, but the government is doing nothing … rather, different quarters have lately been intensifying threats. We shared these issues with the ambassador."
The families asked for an independent and impartial investigation involving representatives from the judiciary and the civil society, an end to lying about secret detentions and disappearances, allowing the families of the victims of enforced disappearance to carry out their activities without fear of reprisal, and disclosing the fate of the victims.
Asked what Haas had told them, Sanjida said the ambassador listened to them and said they were working to ensure investigations into the incidents of enforced disappearance.
They were also working to ensure human rights, Sanjida added.