Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Statement by AHRC

August 27, 2007

Source: A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

BANGLADESH: Contradictory figures of accused persons offered by Foreign Adviser and DMP Chief

The authorities of Bangladesh are giving contradictory figures relating to the number of accused persons in cases lodged with different police stations of Dhaka and other cities. This has been learned from bulletins and reports published over the national television channel as well as private TV stations, including the Dhaka based daily newspapers, which quoted the concerned officials.

Most of the national daily newspapers reported on 26 August that the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) lodged 35 cases against around 82,000 to 87,000 unnamed persons. In fact only twenty persons have actually been named in some twenty eight cases.

The Adviser for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Iftekher Ahmed Chowdhury, held a briefing for diplomatic mission heads working in Dhaka on the same day to let the foreign envoys know the ‘reality’. In the diplomatic briefing the adviser denied the incident of accusing more than 80,000 people in cases in connection with clashes between the students and law enforcement officers at the Dhaka University since 20 August 2007. The adviser asserted that “only 20 people were accused in the all cases lodged with the police stations of Dhaka and Rajshahi”, according to newspaper reports quoting Mr. Chowdhury.

On the same date, the Commissioner of the DMP, Mr. Nayeem Ahmed, told the newsmen that “Though over 76,000 unidentified people have been made accused in 35 cases, the number would obviously come down; the number might not exceed 10,000 as the same persons were involved in separate cases out of 35 cases lodged with 11 police stations of the metropolis”. Mr. Nayeem also added that some 25 people had been arrested in connection with the incidents.

However, both the adviser and the DMP commissioner gave assurances that persons not involved with the incident would not be harassed by the law enforcement officers.

On this, it is evident that there is contradictory information being disseminated by two responsible officials; the foreign adviser and the DMP Chief. Naturally, it gives rise to the question of what the exact number of accused persons really is. On one hand, the adviser claims that ‘only 20 people were accused’ in all cases. On the other hand, the DMP head clarifies that the number is 76,000, which might be reduced to 10,000. Why this difference between the statements of the adviser and the police?

The police commissioner, who is directly connected with the police stations regarding such serious incidents, might have given his explanations based on the records available from his subordinate colleagues. Should the citizens then believe that the adviser was not telling the truth to the diplomats?

The question is also raised that if only 20 people were accused in the 35 cases, then why, according to the DMP Commissioner, were 25 persons arrested in this connection? Who are those extra five persons? According to eye witnesses more than one hundred people have been arrested. In one incident alone 42 people, including 12 students of the Dhaka University, were arrested from the Aziz Super Market, adjacent to the university and they remain in detention. It has been learned that those persons were tied together, placed in a row and beaten by the officers until they were picked up in a prison van. Students and staff of the dormitories of the Dhaka University were brutally beaten by the police, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), army and other intelligence agents. Even school boys were beaten on the streets.

When will the law enforcement officers be charged for violating laws and human rights for these gross abuses?

If 20 people are the key accused for the violence, why have 76,000 unknown persons been implicated? The experience of Bangladesh reflects a picture relating to the practice of implicating unknown persons in huge number in alleged criminal offences. It becomes a great opportunity for the police and other law-enforcing agents to make money. Whatever is the number of accused persons does not matter to the police; they are accustomed to arresting whomever they want in order to extract bribes. In reality, there are serious threats for the common citizens who are scared of multiple methods of harassment at the hands of the law enforcement officers of Bangladesh.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) urges the authorities of Bangladesh to look into the facts behind the arbitrary and repressive attitudes of the law enforcement agents, including the army and other para-military forces that took part in the raids in the dormitories of the universities, as well as private houses adjacent to the areas. The authorities must punish the alleged perpetrators belonging to the army and other forces that instigated the violence. No innocent citizens should be harassed by any means in the name of police investigations. The international communities, including the Human Rights Council of the United Nations should intervene in the ongoing gross abuses of human rights in Bangladesh and hold the authorities accountable in the respective forums where Bangladesh is a state party.
About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

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