BANGLADESH: Accession to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance is urged
Dhaka, Sept 16, 2012: In light of repeated incidents of enforced disappearance in the country, members of parliament, judiciary, administration, families of the disappeared and rights activists urged the Bangladesh government for immediate accession to the International Convention for the Protection of All persons from Enforced Disappearance (The Convention), for which generations of victims have struggled for. This Convention is an international instrument that asks for a series of measures that can, if duly implemented by the States Parties, effectively contribute to eradicate the crime of enforced disappearance.
An advocacy meeting was organised by Odhikar in cooperation with Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) on September 15-16 in Dhaka, discussing the rising incidents of enforced disappearance and the imperative of the government of Bangladesh to ratify the Convention. Representatives of diplomatic missions, international and local organisations and rights groups attended the meeting. They shared examples and situation in other countries such as Germany, Argentina, India, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
The participants shared how consistent movement and resistance to enforced disappearance have successfully put an end to the crime of secret detention in Argentina, Chile, and other Latin American countries during the ‘70s and ‘80s. They urged the people of Bangladesh to build resistance towards enforced disappearance.
Criminal Law in Bangladesh has no provisions for the crime of enforced disappearance, just as it has none for the crime of torture. However, there are penal provisions for crimes such as abduction, wrongful confinement, and grievous hurt. The Code of Criminal Procedure lays down all the paths to be taken to ensure a proper investigation and prosecution. There is, however, a hitch. Criminal procedure also has it that government sanction is required prior to suing a public servant. This is also one of the factors why it is difficult to sue law enforcement agencies for crimes amounting to torture. When the State itself sanctions such an act, it is in no frame of mind to permit its servant to stand on trial for committing that act.
“Enforced disappearance happens in many Asian countries because of lack of the rule of law to protect human rights,” said Wong Kai Shing, Executive Director of Asian Human Rights Commission.
The Government of Bangladesh is obliged to protect its citizens according to the Constitution and ICCPR. Bangladesh should ratify the Convention. Witness protection should be provided. It is also important for the society to recognise that it is a crime.
“In Asia, the rate of enforced disappearance is the highest, yet mechanisms for protection are absent” said Mary Aileen Diez-Bacalso, Secretary General of AFAD. AFAD is concerned about the condition of Bangladesh and urges Bangladesh to be the first South Asian country to ratify this Convention.
The National Human Rights Commission takes the issue of enforced disappearance seriously, said Dr. Mizanur Rahaman, Chairman, National Human Rights Commission. “It is the responsibility of the state to prove that state agents are not involved in this crime,” he said.
According to Odhikar between January and August 2012, 21 persons were allegedly “disappeared”. Among them, 9 allegedly by RAB, 4 by Detective Branch (DB) of police, 2 jointly by RAB-DB police, 01 by Industrial Police and 5 by unidentified persons. In 2011, 30 persons were reported disappeared and among them 14 allegedly by RAB, 2 by police, 11 by DB police and 3 by persons unknown. In 2010, 18 persons were reported as having disappeared, 14 allegedly by RAB, 2 by police, and 2 by DB police.
The UN General Assembly adopted the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance on 20 December 2006 and entered into force on 23 December 2010. The Convention is a legally binding treaty. In May 2011, the UN Committee against Enforced Disappearance was formed with 10 elected individual experts. To date, 91 States have signed the Convention and 34 have ratified it, yet only 15 have recognized the competence of the UN Committee Against Enforced Disappearances. Mr. Rainer Huhle, one of the ten experts and is present in this advocacy meeting stated that “ in the Committee Against Enforced Disappearance, we have currently 2 members from Africa, 2 from Latin America, 2 from Asia, and 4 from Eastern and Western Europe. We would be very pleased if at the next elections for this Committee there could be more candidates from Asian UN Member States. If Bangladesh takes a lead in this effort, it will do a service to its citizens as well as to the improvement of the international order.”
The two-day advocacy meeting among others was attended by Dr. Rainer Huhle, Member, UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances; Ashok Agarwaal, Advocate, Supreme Court of India; Khandakar Mahbub Hossain, Senior Advocate and Vice Chairman, Bangladesh Bar Council; Justice Mahmudul Amin Chowdhury, Former Chief Justice of Bangladesh; Nurul Huda, Former Inspector General of Bangladesh Police; Fawzia Karim Firoze, Member, National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh; Mohammad Nur Khan, Director, Ain O Salish Kendra; Mary Aileen Diez-Bacalso, Secretary General, Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances; Brito Fernando, President, Families of Disappeared, Sri Lanka; Mahmudur Rahman Manna, Convener, Citizen’s Unity; Abdus Sabur, Secretary General, Asian Resource Foundation, Thailand; Haider Akbar Khan Rano, Presidium Member, Communist Party of Bangladesh; Mayeen Uddin Khan Badal, Member of Parliament; Farhad Mazhar, Advisor, Odhikar; Mahmudur Rahman, Acting Editor, Amar Desh; Nurul Kabir, Editor, New Age; Tanvir Chowdhury, Editor, News from Bangladesh; Fazal M. Kamal, Joint Editor, The Independent; Dr. C R Abrar, President, Odhikar; Dr. Saira Rahman Khan, Founding Member, Odhikar; and Adilur Rahman Khan, Secretary, Odhikar.