Rights group urges Bangladesh to charge or release holey attack hostages
July 17, NY: Human Rights Watch urged Bangladeshi authorities to guarantee all due process rights of two detainees who had been held hostage by armed gunmen during the July 1 siege on the Holey Artisan Bakery Café in Dhaka. The two men, Hasanat Karim and Tahmid Khan, were initially held for questioning by authorities but have neither been charged nor released.
Armed gunmen attacked the café on the night of July 1, killing more than 20 people and holding others inside hostage. Security forces stormed the café on the morning of July 2, killing several of the gunmen, and securing the safety of the remaining 13 hostages. The hostages were taken to the Detective Branch headquarters, where they were questioned by the authorities.
All hostages, except for Karim, 47, and Khan, 22, were released on July 3. Their families have had little or no official information about their safety and whereabouts since. They have been allowed to send medicine and clothes, but are unsure if those were delivered to the detainees. The detainees have not been produced promptly before a judge, a right enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bangladesh is a party.
HRW noted that Bangladeshi security forces have an extensive and well-documented history of custodial abuse, including torture. Given this history, there is a real risk of harm during detention and interrogation. HRW has documented torture and custodial abuse of those detained by Bangladeshi security forces, including of one of its own consultants, in 2008. A 2012 report documented the mass arrests, torture, and custodial deaths of those suspected of involvement in a 2009 mutiny by the Bangladesh Rifles. Subsequent investigations by HRW before and after the violent elections in January 2014 documented arbitrary and illegal arrests, leading in some cases to disappearances and deaths. Most recently, HRW expressed concern at the nearly 15,000 mass arbitrary arrests by the government in a much-delayed reaction to a spate of killings of bloggers, atheists, foreigners, and gay rights activists.
Karim is a UK national and Khan is a resident of Canada. HRW called upon both the UK and Canadian authorities to press for consular access to ensure the safety and well-being of the detainees.
HRW also called on the Bangladeshi authorities to admit to the detentions of the two men, to make clear their whereabouts, and to protect their rights.
The Oslo Times International News Network/HRW