The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has submitted a Written Statement to the 128th Session of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) to be held from 19 September to 28 September 2022. While documenting the cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances the AHRC strictly follows the definition of enforced disappearance as enshrined in Article 2 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED)1 .
The AHRC’s Written Statement focuses on the issues involving the situation of enforced disappearances taking place in Bangladesh since January 2009 to June 2022. The AHRC has updated its documentation on enforced disappearances that were committed between January 2009 and June 2022. The documentation suggests that at least 623 people have been the victims of enforced disappearances during the period2. Among them, 153 people still remain disappeared, 84 bodies have been found after having been disappeared while 383 victims have been found alive either in prisons or returned home but refused to reveal their ordeals, and there has been no updated information available from the families of 3 victims of disappearances although they previously disclosed the details of their cases.
The documentation has identified the perpetrating agencies that have been committing enforced disappearances. According to the families and eye-witnesses, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) is allegedly involved in abducting and disappearing at least 195 people. The Bangladesh Police have abducted and disappeared 88 people. The Detective Branch (DB) of the Bangladesh Police have allegedly abducted at least 188 people while the RAB and DB Police jointly abducted and disappeared 12 people. The Industrial Police unit of the Bangladesh Police has allegedly disappeared one victim while the Police and Ansar (village defence party) have jointly abducted and disappeared 2 persons. Other agencies such as the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) and National Security Intelligence (NSI) have allegedly abducted and disappeared at least 137 people during the period mentioned above. In the name of countering terrorism many people were abducted and disappeared. Along with the DGFI and NSI plain clothed people claiming to be ‘Proshashoner Lok’ (People from the Administration) committed the crimes of abduction and disappearances.
It should be noted that the actual number of enforced disappearances in Bangladesh are much higher than the documented figures. The AHRC has only documented those cases that have been publicly claimed by the families. Due to the entrenched fear psychosis inflicted in the society the families who have not dared to publicly reveal the cases of disappearances of their loved ones have not been included in the 623 victims of enforced disappearances. For example: according to the information, dozens of officers of the armed forced of Bangladesh have been abducted and disappeared since a massacre took place in February 2009 at the headquarters of former Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), which is later renamed as Border Guards, Bangladesh (BGB), have not been included in the documented cases of enforced disappearances.
The AHRC reiterates that the Government of Bangladesh blocks the paths to justice through continuous intimidation and threats to the families of the disappeared victims. The families face constant surveillance by the law-enforcement agencies, intelligence units, and the activists of the ruling party’s wings. The judiciary of Bangladesh allegedly colludes with the executive authorities in denying remedies to the cases of enforced disappearances. In fact, the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh has not provided an assertive remedy to any of the habeas corpus petitions filed regarding the enforced disappearances since 2009.
Instead of probing the incidents of enforced disappearances with credibility the Government of Bangladesh is denying the occurrences of disappearances and using coercive tactics to coverup the crimes that the law-enforcement agencies have been committing. The law-enforcement agencies and intelligence units keep insisting the human rights organisations to reveal the documentation containing the personal details of the families of the victims of disappearances. In the aftermath of the designation of sanctions against six current and former commanders of the RAB by the United States Treasury Department3 and the State Department’s imposition of visa ban on two former commanders of RAB4 the reprisals against human rights groups have been increased. The families of the victims face tremendous forms of coercion of statements followed by increased surveillance and intimidation.
Considering the ever-increasing threatening atmosphere in Bangladesh where the human rights groups and victims constantly face reprisals for raising voices over the arbitrary deprivation of life the AHRC has decided to publish the cases in its website to prove its credibility. The Government of Bangladesh must stop reprisals against the nationally based human rights organisations. The publication of the details should lead to credible probes. Any reprisal the families of enforced disappearances faces or any harm is inflicted to the victims in Bangladesh the country’s government and the relevant agencies must bear the responsibilities for that action whatsoever. The AHRC is committed to work with the competent multilateral bodies, and other entities, that are able to hold the perpetrating agencies and their individual personnel accountable for their original crimes against humanity and involvement in lashing out reprisals.
In the given context of systemic denial of access to justice the victims are totally helpless and defenceless. They keep raising their voice to demand justice taking to the streets and reaching out to the international human rights experts. Multilateral institutions such the United Nations should create independent investigative mechanism under the UN’s universal jurisdictions as there are scopes of application of the principles of universal jurisdictions5 for addressing the crimes against humanity6. The victims and the families demand that the United Nations do everything possible under UN’s capacities to probe the cases and ensure that the perpetrators of enforced disappearances are held accountable for their crimes7. The perpetrating agencies and the individual members must not be allowed to participate in the Peacekeeping Operations of the UN. Each of the perpetrators, including the high-profile masterminds, must be brought to justice for planning, implementing, committing, and covering up the crimes of enforced forced disappearances in Bangladesh.
 International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, https://www.ohchr.org/en/instruments-mechanisms/instruments/international-convention-protection-all-persons-enforced
 Asian Human Rights Commission’s documentation on enforced disappearances in Bangladesh from January 2009 to June 2022 can be accessed from the following links:
 United States Department of Treasury Designated Sanctions on 10 December 2021: https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0526
 United States Department of State Imposed Visa Ban on 10 December 2021: https://www.state.gov/the-united-states-promotes-accountability-for-human-rights-violations-and-abuses/
 Sixth Committee’s Resolution adopted in the 75th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations: https://www.un.org/en/ga/sixth/75/universal_jurisdiction.shtml
 United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect: https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/crimes-against-humanity.shtml
 New Age, Editorial 31 August 2022, Independent body must to prove enforced disappearances, https://www.newagebd.net/article/179763/independent-body-must-to-probe-enforced-disappearances