Posts Tagged ‘AHRC’

BANGLADESH: Chains of Corruption Strangle Nation — Asian Human Rights Commission

May 12, 2014

To better understand the climate of lawlessness in which the Final Nominee of the MEA 2014, Adilur of ODHIKAR, has to operate, please read the detailed statement below by the Asian Human Rights Commission. It tells how seven men, including a lawyer and city councillor, have been murdered in cold blood, mostly likely by the infamous Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) in Bangladesh. I decided not to shortened it:

“The rule of law does not exist in Bangladesh. The way the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) abducted seven men, including a senior lawyer and a member of the mayoral panel of the Narayanganj City Corporation (NCC), on 27 April 2014, and murdered them, allegedly on behalf of a feuding faction of the ruling party, in exchange for a 60 million Taka (US$ 774,000) bribe, is proof yet again of this fact. The role of family members of a cabinet minister in masterminding the operation, police inaction in the face of knowledge of the abduction, and eyewash gestures at the highest levels of government confirm fears. The politics of blood and wealth reign supreme in Bangladesh; there is no space for the rule of law. A ‘chain of corruption’ has replaced the ‘chain of command’ in Bangladesh’s law-enforcement system, and the people are forced to pay more to the law enforcers than they do their government (For further details, please see an earlier statement on the subject).

On 27 April 2014, Mr. Md. Nazrul Islam, a Councillor of the NCC, approached the district’s Sessions Court to seek permanent bail in a case filed against him and his followers by political opponents, the Bangladesh Awami League, i.e. the ruling party.

At the court premises, Nazrul was under constant surveillance by plain-clothed members of the RAB. Nazrul’s associates caught one of the plain-clothed men, who happened to be armed, and handed him to the on-duty police officers at the court. The police released the man following intervention by a uniformed RAB officer, who came to rescue his colleague. Vehicles with “‘RAB-11’ signs were also noticed parked in front of the court.

By 12:30 p.m., Nazrul and fifteen more persons, who were all accused in the same case, managed to get bail from the court. After a while, Nazrul, along with three associates and his car driver, left the court. Their car began heading towards Dhaka through the Dhaka-Narayanganj Link Road. Mr. Chandan Kumar Sarker, a senior lawyer of the Narayanganj Bar Association, whose car followed that of Nazrul, left the court for lunch at his home, located adjacent to the Dhaka-Narayanganj Link Road.

The RAB team abducted Nazrul and his associates, allegedly from a place called Lamapara. Chandan’s car is reported to have arrived at the scene right when Nazrul and his associates were being abducted by the RAB. So there would be not witnesses to the abduction, the RAB team abducted Chandan and his car driver too.

Within 24 hours of the abduction, Chandan’s car was found at the Gulshan Niketan area of Dhaka, while the car carrying Nazrul and his associates was found at Rajendrapur, Gazipur District, where a cantonment is situated. After three days, on 30 April, dead bodies of six of the seven men were found floating in the Shitalakkhaya river, adjacent to Narayanganj. The seventh body was found in the same river on 1 May. Each dead body had 24 bricks fastened to it, 12 in the front and 12 in the back. The bricks were placed in ration bags, similar to those distributed among security forces.

The Civil Surgeon of Narayanganj district, who headed the team that conducted the autopsy on the dead bodies, told the media that all the seven victims were hit in the head before they were strangulated. The injuries on most bodies appeared similar; Nazrul’s body had additional injury marks. The abdomens of all seven bodies were perforated, so that the bodies would not float. However, the jute ropes used in fastening the dead bodies rotted under water and gave way. As a result, the dead bodies surfaced. The Civil Surgeon said that he believed “only professional, skilled and trained people could have carried out such an act.

The police officers later admitted to the media and local human rights defenders that they came to know about the abduction of seven people, including Nazrul Islam and Chandan Sarker, soon after the incidents occurred. However, the police did not take any action. The police did not include the names of any RAB officers in the complaint regarding Nazrul’s disappearance. This is the kind of immunity enjoyed by criminals in the RAB, and the goons of the ruling parties of Bangladesh. The deliberate avoidance of the police, other units of RAB and all the agencies in rescuing the abducted men alive also indicates the level of lawlessness that plagues the country.

Lt. Col. Tareque Sayeed Mohammad, Commander of RAB-11, based in Narayanganj, is married to a daughter of Mr. Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury (Maya), a cabinet minister of the incumbent regime. The RAB-11 Commander and his brother-in-law, Mr. Sajedul Islam Chowdhury, also known as Dipu Chowdhury (son of Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury), who is a business partner of NCC Councillor Nur Hossain, allegedly planned the abduction and disappearance of Nazrul, as a result of enmity between Nazrul and Nur, with Nur, allegedly, being a goon of Mr. Shamim Osman.

Mr. Shamim Osman, a Member of Parliament from Narayanganj district won his seat uncontested in the January 5th fake parliamentary election (For further details, please seeAHRC’s statement on the fake general elections in Bangladesh here). Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina backs Mr. Osman; he has even claimed, in a press briefing, that he informed the Sheikh Hasina over telephone within ten minutes of the RAB abduction. Sheikh Hasina, who also happens to be the nation’s Home Minister, has not denied Shamim’s version of events.

The Prime Minister and Home Minister Sheikh Hasina took no action to save the lives of the abducted seven. Her hands are stained with the blood of these seven victims. Following continued public protest, the government withdrew top officials from Narayanganj district two days after the disappearance of the seven men. The officers include the Deputy Commissioner (DC), the Superintendent of Police (SP), and three officers of the RAB-11, namely Lt. Col. Tareque Sayeed Mohammad, Major Arif Hossain, and Lt. Commander SM Masud Rana. The three military officers were deputed back to their original units in the army and navy. On 5 May, the government announced that these three military officers had been given forced retirements. The government has, however, not frozen their bank accounts or arrested any of the officers.

Since the abduction and disappearance of the seven men, a number of people took to the streets around Narayanganj and other parts of the country. The district Bar Association continuously staged protests demanding the return of their member, Mr. Chandan Kumar Sarker. The lawyers called for a general strike in the district, which was supported by different Bar Associations in Bangladesh. Public protests have not stopped.

The Narayanganj Bar Association, along with another organisation and the son-in-law of slain lawyer Chandan Kumar Sarker, has filed a writ petition with the High Court Division demanding the arrest of the military officers.

On 11 May 2014, a High Court Bench has directed the government and the Inspector General of Bangladesh Police to arrest the three military officers. Two of the officers are reportedly being housed in the Logistic Area of the Dhaka Cantonment. The High Court has also asked the authorities to explain why they would not be directed to “effectively consider an amendment to the existing law(s) regulating professional activities of the police, RAB and other law enforcement agencies aiming at updating their various legal provisions relating to their duties and responsibilities towards ensuring effective enjoyment of the citizens’ rights enshrined Article 31, 32, 36, 42 and 44 of the constitution.

The court has reportedly asked the authorities to explain why the government would not be directed to ensure ‘uninfluenced’ and ‘unbiased’ investigation into the murders. The authorities have also been asked why the government would not be directed to “oversee the performance of the law enforcement agencies in view of human rights“. Secretaries to the home, law, and public administration ministries, the National Human Rights Commission chairman, and the Inspector General of Police have been asked to reply in four weeks. The police have not yet identified all the alleged RAB perpetrators and no RAB official has yet been accused in the cases filed regarding the seven victims.

Could this abduction and murder of seven men have been committed by but three officers? It is likely that more than a dozen RAB personnel were involved in the crime; this is something the government has been trying ignore. Bangladeshis know that the officers of the military and paramilitary forces – such as the Bangladesh Army, the RAB, and the police – enjoy impunity for the crimes they commit. Officers of the armed forces and ruling politicians and their associates and families are understood to be above Bangladesh’s Constitution and other domestic laws while the party is in power.

Everyday, citizens are abducted by plain clothed men claiming to be the officers of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and the Detective Branch (DB) of Police. No such incident has been met with a credible investigation. Citizen questions about the abductions, which are followed by either disappearance or the recovery of dead bodies, have not been answered.

In few incidences the abductees have been found alive, following temporary disappearance. These victims and their families are usually more scared than ever. Nobody dares to share the true stories of their abduction, either publicly or privately, on fear of extrajudicial execution, and with an understanding that an official complaint will come to nothing. On the other hand, law-enforcement agencies continue to blame ‘criminals’ for such abductions and disappearances.

The people of Bangladesh have been demanding that the RAB be disbanded immediately for its utter failure in acting under the purview of the laws of the land. Instead, the RAB, which claims to be an ‘elite force’, has always blamed ‘criminals’ for gross violation of human rights, such as the extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances. If the RAB’s job is to blame ‘criminals’ for committing crimes like abduction and disappearance, criminals that use similar uniforms, vehicles, and mien across the country, then what kind of elite force is the RAB? The Asian Human Rights Commission and its sister organisation the Asian Legal Resource Centre recommended in 2006 that the government of Bangladesh disband the RAB. At that time, a Special Report titled “Lawless law-enforcement and the parody of judiciary in Bangladesh” was published in article2. The AHRC reiterates that the RAB should be disbanded, immediately, joining voices in Bangladesh making this demand at present.

The discourse regarding abduction, disappearance, and extrajudicial executions should not focus on only the seven victims of Narayanganj, i.e. on event reporting. There are so many names like Mohammad Salim Mian, Imam Hossain Badal, Chowdhury Alam, M. Ilias Ali, who have been victim to enforced disappearance. In last eight years, hundreds of people have been disappeared. The discourse must include all these victims. None of their families have received any answer from the government or justice through the judiciary. The people have to find a way to bring the rule of law to Bangladesh. Presently, law-enforcement agencies do not comply with the system of rule of law. It is the chains of corruption that are being complied with. And, it is these chains of corruption that are strangling the nation and mangling the fate of rule of law, against the people’s aspirations.”

 

BANGLADESH: Chains of Corruption Strangle Nation — Asian Human Rights Commission.

Episode 24 of Asian Human Rights News in television format

April 3, 2014

The 24th Episode of the Human Rights Asia Weekly Roundup by the AHRC covers the encouraging peace agreement which has been signed in Mindanao, putting an end to a 40-year-old conflict between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Philippine government.

In Qatar, hundreds of migrant workers have died in the slavery-like labour conditions on FIFA World Cup construction projects.

Indonesian, MP candidates for the upcoming elections met with Hong Kong’s domestic helpers to discuss improving protections and rights.

In India, the Supreme Court ordered for a time-bound adjudication of all trials involving legislators within a year. This is the first of a series of reports on court delays and what it means for justice in India.

India is the biggest importer of arms in the world while millions still lack basic health care. AHRC calls for the country to reconsider its priorities.

Voices of Survivors: this week hears from Hechin Haokip who was displaced from her mountain village in Manipur because of the on-going conflict but has managed to get back on her feet and help many vulnerable people in her community through human rights activism.

To contribute please write to news@ahrc.asia. You can also watch Weekly Roundup on Facebook.

Another episode of Human Rights TV in Asia

March 20, 2014

AHRC released the 22th Episode of its

In this week’s programme:

  • Teenager in Pakistan who set herself on fire when the men who gang raped her were released after bribing the police.
  • Manipuri hunger striker Irom Sharmila, who has spent 14 years protesting the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), is released and re-arrested in what is now an annual ritual; Manipuri human rights defender Babloo Loitongbam further discusses the AFSPA in relation to the upcoming elections in India.
  • Basil Fernando talks about the arrests of human rights defenders in Sri Lanka, just as the UN Human Rights Council has proposed a new landmark resolution to investigate war crimes committed by both sides during the end of the war in Sri Lanka.
  • Kerala lawyer R.K Asha describes her police torture ordeal from her hospital bed.
  • A disturbing report from Thar district in Pakistan, where children are starving to death while the relief wheat meant for them remains unused and is rotting in storage.
  • In Voices of Survivors: this week we hear from Biman Bose in Assam, India, who has fought a decades-long battle for justice after brutal torture costing him his livelihood.

The bulletin can be watched online at AHRC YouTube. The AHRC welcomes both human rights feeds to be considered for weekly news bulletin and suggestions to improve the news channel: news[at]ahrc.asia.

You can also watch our Weekly Roundup on Facebook.

Sri Lanka: Release of Mr Ruki Fernando and Rev Praveen Mahesan

March 19, 2014

On Monday 17 March, I reported on a clampdown on human rights defenders in Sri Lanka which looked very much like reprisals (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/sri-lanka-champion-retaliator-against-human-rights-defenders/). Fortunately, Front Line Defenders reports today that the human rights defenders Ruki Fernando and Reverend Praveen Mahesan were released from detention. They had been detained on 16 March 2014 when visiting the Killinochchi district after the arrest of human rights defender Ms Balendran Jayakumari. She remains in detention under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/25400).

Sri Lanka: champion retaliator against human rights defenders

March 17, 2014

Today, 17 March 2014, the Asian Human Rights Commission, comes out with a statement that makes Sri Lanka look like one the worst offenders when it comes to retaliation and reprisals against human rights defenders.  My feelings about reprisals are well-known and were recently  expressed in: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/zero-tolerance-for-states-that-take-reprisals-against-hrds-lets-up-the-ante/ 

A draft resolution promoting reconciliation, accountability, and human rights in Sri Lanka is being discussed at the United Nations Human Rights Council. The proposed resolution calls for, among other things, the Office of the High Commissioner, “To lead a comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka and establish the facts and circumstances of such violations and of the crimes committed with the view to avoiding impunity and ensuring accountability with assistance from relevant experts”. 

The statement of the AHRC reads: Read the rest of this entry »

Human Rights News in Asia: weekly round up

March 6, 2014

In 20th episode of the weekly Human Rights News programme of the Asian Human Rights Commission you will find:

  1. International Women’s Day Special from Nepal, Bangladesh, and Hong Kong
  2. Fact finding report on Cambodia riots  released
  3. Baloch Long March on its 107th day in Pakistan
  4. Two men tortured and shot in Sumatra, Indonesia
  5. Hong Kong demonstration for press freedom.

Asian human rights TV: 19th consecutive episode

February 26, 2014

In the weekly round up of human rights news the Asian Human Rights Commission [AHRC] covers this week (25 February 2014) the following topics:

  1. Pakistan’s long march meets further challenges
  2. Disguised police officers in Sri Lanka try to disrupt protest
  3. 10th anniversary of torture victim Maina Sunuwar’s death
  4. Extrajudicial killing in broad daylight in Bangladesh
  5. The ALRC makes 17 written submissions on human rights issues in Asia to the UN
  6. Pakistani social activist is murdered
  7. Voices of survivors: this week from the Philippines.

It is remarkable and promising that a small regional NGO is able to keep this up, paving the way for further such developments in the future. See also my end-of-year post:

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/2014-heralds-the-age-of-images-in-human-rights-work/

2014 heralds the age of images in human rights work

December 28, 2013

To illustrate the increased use of video and images in the human rights world, just scroll down and get a feel of the amount and variety through some examples, mostly from the end of this year:

Human Rights Watch produced an end-of-year 2013 overview.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is announces the latest issue of its weekly video news bulletin (episode number 10).

Amnesty International used a slick production to get attention for the fate of Syrian refugees in Europe (not explaining why other regions are not targeted by the way).

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights used this video to address the world on Human Rights Day 2013;

Inspirational resilience: Celebrating Human Rights Defenders in Eurasia | Freedom House.

On Human Rights Day, US-based Freedom House recognized the work of HRDs in the Eurasia region with a slide show on: Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan.

The International Service for Human Rights in Geneva presents its work with a video.

Human Rights First used YouTube to announce its fundraising live stream for the end of the year.

There are of course many more examples, quite a few referred to in this blog over the years, such as those of the MEA: http://www.martinennalsaward.org/ but  a special mention should be made of

the organisation Witness in the USA which has pioneered the use of video cameras in the hands of human rights defenders.

When the internet some 25 years ago made it possible to send and ‘publish’ almost unlimited amounts texts, the original euphoria in the human rights movement (whose main weapon is after all documentation) was quickly dampened somewhat when it also led to information overkill. Something similar is bound to happen with images which can now be ‘published’ and transmitted as easily as documents (but without the free-text search capacity). On the other hand there will be new possibilities and different ways of getting the human rights ‘stories’ across, especially on mobile devices used increasingly by younger generations.
The True Heroes Foundation – of which I am a founding Board member – wants to follow and use this development in a way that Human Rights Defenders derive maximum benefit from the new information and communication technology. It hopes to do so by making stories and images of HRDs the most eminent entry point for those seeking information on human rights in the near future. Keep following this blog and the website www.trueheroesfilms.org in the coming year for ….I am afraid …yet MORE information!!
With these thoughts, I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST FOR 2014.
Related articles

Human Rights TV is coming: here one of the first steps in Asia

December 16, 2013

I have often wondered why there is not a proper human rights (digital) TV channel. Technically is should be possible but it would require the true coöperation from the whole human rights movement to create a global channel. Glad to see that the Asian Human Rights Commission has started at least with a weekly programme. Here is episode 9 on Human Rights Day. Bravo!

BURMA: continued prosecution of human rights defenders and peaceful demonstrators

November 23, 2013

There was much optimism about developments in Myanmar/Burma after the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, and the government’s announcement of a process of democratization. But reports from the Asian Human Rights Commission, Front Line Defenders and other NGOs give ground for pessimism. In the words of the AHRC (on 24 September):  “If the government of Myanmar is as serious as it says that it is about political reform, about the release of political prisoners, and about other measures to put its authoritarian legacy behind it, then it needs to begin by bringing to a halt the wanton prosecution of human rights defenders l…It needs to repeal [repressive] laws and above all, it needs to do much more to alter systematically the practices and mentalities of administrators, police officers and other officials accustomed to shutting down any public activity not directly under their control or given their approval. Democratic life is about people acting and talking according to ideas that government officials sometimes will not like. If on every occasion they see or hear something they do not like the authorities in Myanmar respond to it with prosecution, then democratic life in the country will remain a figment.” According to the protesters’ lawyer, Mr Robert San Aung, a total of 57 activists have now been imprisoned under the Peaceful Assembly Law. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners  and 130 activists have been brought to court under this legislation, 18 of whom remain in prison. Read the rest of this entry »