Rights group urges Bangladesh to end illegal detentions immediately
Aug.14, NY: Bangladeshi authorities should immediately end the illegal detentions of Mir Qasem Ali and Humman Qader Chowdhury, arrested respectively on August 9 and August 4, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said.
Both men were arrested without warrants or charges, have not been produced before a magistrate, and have not been allowed access to family or lawyers.
Chowdhury, a senior member of the opposition Bangladesh National Party, was arrested from inside his car as he was travelling with his mother to a courthouse to attend a hearing around 11 a.m. on August 4. According to his mother, several men in plainclothes – some of whom were armed – forced Chowdhury to leave the car and come with them.
Qasem Ali, a Supreme Court lawyer, was arrested from his home around 11 p.m. on August 9 by several men, also in plainclothes. The men did not identify themselves as being with any security forces. His wife and cousin were present during the arrest. Authorities have denied having either of the men in custody, although multiple credible sources have said that both men were at the headquarters of the Rapid Action Battalion in Dhaka on the morning of August 12. Qasem Ali’s wife has filed a general diary complaint, the standard first report of transgressions filed with the police. Chowdhury’s family attempted to file a general diary but the police refused to accept it.
Qasem Ali’s family has subsequently learned, but has not been able to confirm, that he has been moved to the headquarters of the Detective Branch. This is where two other detainees were also held illegally from July 2 until their production in court last week. Chowdhury’s family has also been told that he has since been moved from Detective Branch to a different agency, but they have not been able to confirm which one.
Bangladesh has been reeling from a spree of seemingly militant inspired killings and attacks, including a horrific attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery Café in Dhaka on July 1, and another the subsequent week on an Eid gathering. In a much-delayed response, Bangladeshi authorities arrested nearly 15,000 people following the spate of attacks on bloggers, atheists, foreigners and LGBTI activists. Following the attack on the café, the authorities arrested two hostages, Hasnat Karim and Tahmid Khan, and then proceeded to issue contradictory statements about whether the men were in their custody. More than a month later, they finally admitted the men were in their custody, although they created a false cover story to avoid allegations of illegal detention.
Both Chowdhury and Qasem Ali are the sons of two senior opposition politicians convicted of war crimes during Bangladesh’s 1971 Independence War. Chowdhury’s father, Salahuddin Qader Chowdhury, was executed in November 2015. Qasem Ali’s father is currently facing execution on war crimes charges having nearly exhausted his appeals. Qasem Ali had feared that he would be arbitrarily abducted by the authorities shortly after the attack on the café when the government started claiming that the attack was the work of those seeking to free convicted war criminals.
The Oslo Times International News Network/HRW