BANGLADESH: Intervene now, to save the life of the detained journalist, Mr. Mahmudur Rahman 

Yesterday, on 11 April 2013, the authorities in Bangladesh arrested the Interim Editor of a prominent Bangladeshi daily, Daily Amardesh, Mr. Mahmudur Rahman. When Rahman was brought before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court in Dhaka, he reportedly said: “… I know well that if I appoint any lawyer, he or she will submit prayers for my bail and cancellation of [the] remand prayer foolishly. The court will act on whatever decision comes from the government.”

The magistrate remanded Rahman for 13 days, and handed him over to the Tejgaon Police in Dhaka. According to Rahman, on a previous occasion, he was arrested, remanded, stripped naked, and subjected to severe torture on fabricated charges.

Torture of persons in police custody is common in Bangladesh. The people of Bangladesh know this. The people associate police custody with torture and ill treatment, particularly in cases where the government is keenly interested in persecuting a person. In this case, Rahman, who is the Interim Editor of one of the best selling dailies in Bangladesh, and whose arrest is motivated due to political reasons; it is most likely that Rahman will be subjected to severe torture once again.

It is reported that, yesterday, at least 10 persons were murdered by the state agencies in Fatikchhari sub-district of Chittagong district. It is alleged that there are more persons killed in the same event yesterday, of which the bodies are reportedly missing. Of this the government has admitted the death of three persons at the hands of state forces. It is due to this, that it is vital for human rights organisations and other civil rights movements in Bangladesh; and for the international community, including the United Nations, particularly its human rights mechanisms; the European Union; the governments of the United States and India; to intervene in this case. Such intervention will at least ensure that Rahman is not tortured in custody.

The international community must act now, so as to prevent it repeating past mistakes of stagnated and half-hearted attempts and failing to act when human rights obligations warrant urgent diplomatic interventions. When grotesque forms of human rights abuses happen within the same city where diplomatic missions are located, which is the case in Dhaka today, states must act, at least to ensure that lives are not lost. Any measure of condemnation or aid, after situations deteriorate irrecoverably will not suffice the lives and freedoms lost.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) requests the foreign missions in Dhaka to urge the Government of Bangladesh, to allow them visit Rahman in custody. To ensure that Rahman is safe, and will not be subjected to mental and physical torture, it is important that the Government of Bangladesh allow him to be examined by an independent medical doctor, every 72 hours.

The closure of the Daily Amardesh, one of the best-known newspapers in Bangladesh, the sealing of its press, seizure of equipments such as computers and hard disks, constitute brutal smothering of the freedom of expression. Such actions will have a chilling effect upon the remaining free media in the country and will result in the reinforcement of the culture of fear, throughout the nation.

Recent protests have seen the wanton use of automatic assault rifles by the state agencies against civilians, and other forms of violence like disappearances and extrajudicial executions carried out throughout the country, most importantly within the capital city, Dhaka. The right of every Bangladeshi to protest against arbitrary misuse of authority must be protected. Crippling the freedom to organise and protest using peaceful means and to participate in non-violent mass movements will push Bangladesh back into stone ages and will irreparably destroy the very notion of the possibility of establishing a democratic state in Bangladesh.

At the moment there is widespread fear in Bangladesh that the forced closure of the Daily Amar Desh and the violence used by the state against protestors is a prelude to long-lasting political changes in the country. Conditions in Bangladesh today have the potential to snowball into a permanent paralysis of electoral politics in Bangladesh.

Under these circumstances the AHRC calls upon the human rights community in Bangladesh, in Asia and the international community, to intervene with the Government of Bangladesh to ensure protection of free expression and opinions, the publications of newspapers and the security of journalists in Bangladesh. The international community should intervene to ensure that the people’s right to choose their government through free and fair elections should be safeguarded at all costs.

Please see a previous statement on this issue released by the AHRC here.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-077-2013
Countries : Bangladesh,
Issues : Freedom of expression, Human rights defenders, Police negligence, Police violence, Torture,