Govt report on enforced disappearance masks a bigger problem

Justice for the victims must be ensured
Children of the victims of enforced disappearances hold their photos at a rally in front of the National Museum in Dhaka, May 28, 2022. Mayer Daak, an organisation of family members of such victims, organised the event. PHOTO: STAR

For the first time, the government has responded to enquiries by the United Nations Human Rights Council's (UNHRC) working group on enforced disappearances by submitting the information sought on Bangladeshi cases. While we appreciate the effort, we must express our disappointment that it took so long for the government to respond to a matter this serious. This displays a type of callousness that is not only concerning, but also extremely damaging to the country's image. Moreover, it sends a bad signal about how much importance the government places on human rights, rule of law, and accountability of different state organs.

What is further concerning is that the UNHRC has already stated that the information provided by the government is inadequate. Reportedly, its response consisted of details about 76 incidents of enforced disappearance. The working group said that information on 66 of them is inadequate. Having taken so long to prepare its response and having faced censure for that, surely the government could have done better. This has, unfortunately, become a pattern for the government when it comes to enforced disappearances.

Over the last decade or so, hundreds of people have allegedly been forcibly disappeared. Nearly every time, however, officials dismissed the allegations off-hand, and even made jokes about the victims, despite there being witnesses to these abductions in many cases. In fact, instead of showing sympathy to the families of victims and helping them out, law enforcers have repeatedly been accused of intimidating and harassing them, as well as refusing to file their complaints.

To prepare the report for the UN, law enforcers had to visit the families of victims. Some of them told this newspaper that this was the first time they had ever been contacted by the law enforcers, which simply sums up the whole scenario. Our report also includes narrations from families on how they were threatened and harassed to disbelieve what they saw with their own eyes or heard with their own ears—of their loved ones being taken away by people in plainclothes identifying as law enforcers—and to change their stories more in line with the state's.

This entire situation is nothing short of shameful. We reiterate the UNHRC's call on the government to ensure protection of human rights defenders and the families of victims of enforced disappearance. Moreover, it is the duty of the state to find these people or their bodies. It needs to stop avoiding its responsibility by giving lame excuses such as that these people are hiding, when it is evident that hundreds of people cannot disappear like this without there being some powerful force behind it.


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গ্যারান্টি দিয়ে বলতে পারি পিটার হাসের সঙ্গে রাজনৈতিক আলোচনা করিনি: আইনমন্ত্রী

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