BANGLADESH: Government is abusing its police to harass dissident voices

Five persons including four senior journalists of the Daily Amar Desh, a national newspaper, are under imminent threat of detention and subsequent torture by the state agents. The country’s police fabricated a criminal case (No. 2) against four senior journalists namely Assistant Editor Mr. Sanjib Chowdhury, Crime Reporter Mr. Alauddin Arif, Chief Editor Mr. Seyed Abdal Ahmed, City Editor Zahid Chowdhury and a staff of the daily named Mr. Saiful Islam on 2 June 2010. These persons protested against the authorities when the Acting Editor of the Daily Amar Desh Mr. Mahmudur Rahman was arbitrarily detained and tortured by the state agents two and half years ago. The Daily Amar Desh is among those media of Bangladesh that exposes the failures, and criticises the misdeeds, of the incumbent regime.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received factual information regarding the matter. A petition made by police inspector Mr. Apurbo Hasan, the Officer-in-Charge (OC) of the Tejgaon police station of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), reveals the governmental intention. The Tejgaon OC submitted the petition to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court of Dhaka on 11 October 2012. He has requested the Court to cancel the bail of these five persons. In the same petition the OC claims that at the time of surrendering before the Court these five persons mentioned only their official address. Now, the police need to know the full and correct name and address for which the alleged accused persons should be taken in police remand for the sake of proper investigation of the case. The case is supposed to be heard by the Court tomorrow, on 22 October 2012.

The AHRC is aware that these journalists, who are well known for their professional background, have appeared before the Courts in person on subsequent dates of hearing since the case was fabricated against them. After almost two and half year the police are not legally authorised to submit any petition for taking any suspect in remand at all.

According to Regulation 324 of Police Regulation of Bengal (PRB)-1943,

“… An under trial prisoner cannot remain in police custody after 15 days have elapsed from the date of his first production before the Magistrate”.

It asserts that as 15 days have already passed since these five persons first appeared before the Court, the police are not eligible to seek remand anymore!

Freedom of expression is guaranteed in Bangladesh’s Constitution and in the international human rights instruments adopted by the United Nations. All the authoritative organs of the United Nations have repeatedly affirmed the role of the press. Newspapers are merely carrying out the duties of observers of the human rights covenants to which states have become parties. The protection of the rights of all persons requires respect of the rights guaranteed under these conventions. Under article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), states are required to take legislative, judicial and administrative measures to ensure that people enjoy the rights guaranteed by the UN conventions.

The AHRC urges the government of Bangladesh not to take any arbitrary action against any citizen, including journalists or human rights activists, for whatever contribution these professionals may have made in pursuit of the fundamental rights enshrined in human rights laws. We urge the Special Rappoteurs on Freedom of Expression and Opinion and Indpendent of Judges and Lawyers of the United Nations to intervene on behalf of the targeted journalists for their protection, and to take all measures to prevent arrest, police remand, detention, torture and fabrication of charges against them.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-210-2012
Countries : Bangladesh,
Issues : Freedom of expression, Impunity, Right to life, Rule of law,