BANGLADESH: Australian academics voice concern for Razzak

(Hong Kong, May 11, 2011) Staff and graduate students of the Australian National University on Wednesday submitted a letter to the diplomatic mission of Bangladesh in Canberra voicing their concern over the eye-gouging attack on Bangladeshi human rights defender Abdur Razzak. 

Representatives of the Asia Rights group at the ANU met with the first secretary at the High Commission for Bangladesh, Md. Mosharaf Hossain, and gave him a copy of the letter and a set of materials on the case from the Asian Human Rights Commission website. 

“This story of the barbaric attack on Razzak has shocked people here who have learned of it, and we wanted to impress upon the diplomatic staff that it is a case that is attracting wide international attention and condemnation,” Nick Cheesman, a member of the group, said. 

“Mr. Hossain told us that the High Commissioner would go through the documentation and that definitely they would send it on to the Minister for Home Affairs,” Cheesman said. 

“He also said that definitely the government would take the matter seriously with more international attention on the case,” he noted. 

“We also raised concerns about the human rights and rule of law situation in Bangladesh more generally, and in particular, the role of the Rapid Action Battalions in promoting a culture of gross human rights abuse and impunity,” Cheesman added. 

The letter signed by members of Asia Rights calls for full medical treatment of Abdur Razzak at state expense, for the army officer who allegedly ordered and coordinated the attack by phone to be suspended immediately, for a genuine criminal investigation and punishment of the perpetrators, and for guarantees of protection for Razzak and his family. 

“We stressed the need for a genuine inquiry, because we’re well aware even though there may be some moves under strong pressure against the perpetrators at this time, without a thorough and complete investigation we are fearful that the key perpetrators could find various ways to evade punishment,” Cheesman added. 

The Asia Rights website has also been posted details on the case of Abdur Razzak: 

Wong Kai Shing, director of the AHRC, welcomed the initiative and said that the campaign for Abdur Razzak was growing in momentum both in Bangladesh and abroad. 

“It may come as a surprise to the alleged perpetrators of this heinous crime that what they seemingly considered to be legitimate treatment of a human being is looked upon by horror both by people in their own country and by others around the world,” the director of the Hong Kong-based regional rights group said. 

“We expect that in coming days and weeks there will be more and more interventions like this on behalf of Razzak, and we expect the government of Bangladesh to take the calls for action in this case very seriously,” Wong added. 

A copy of the letter to the High Commissioner in Canberra follows. 


We, the undersigned members of Asia Rights–a group of academics, students and human rights defenders at the Australian National University–are writing to draw your attention to the case of FM Abdur Razzak, a 44-year-old human rights defender and journalist in Khulna District, Bangladesh, and to call for urgent and ongoing intervention from the highest levels of your Government. 

According to the information that we have received, on 29 April 2011 a group of men allegedly acting on orders of Major Mustafizur Rahman Bokul, Bangladesh Army attacked Razzak and his brother, causing them severe injuries. The men, including the younger brother of the army officer, allegedly tried to blind Razzak by pushing their fingers and objects into his eye sockets, until they bled. At the time, the younger brother spoke on the telephone with the army officer, who reportedly asked to confirm that the target of the attack had been blinded, and then said to dump the bodies in a ditch somewhere. However, after intervention from local police, the two victims of the attack were brought to hospital. Both men have broken limbs: the attackers broke Razzak’s right hand specifically so that he cannot write articles for his newspaper. 

Currently, Razzak is getting treatment at a medical clinic, where due to high publicity of this case the Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Dr. AFM Rahul Haque, has visited him. The full details of the case, and updates, are on the website of the Asian Human Rights Commission: 

Although we welcome the news that the Minister has visited Razzak and shown a concern for his case, we are worried that he nonetheless may lose sight in one eye. Meanwhile, the lives of his family remain at risk. The alleged perpetrators are still free and Major Mustafizur Rahman still serving in his army post. We are especially concerned that without determined intervention from the highest levels of Government, he will not be held to account in a court of law. 

Accordingly, we urge you to take up this case with your Government to ensure that 

1. Abdur Razzak obtains the best medical care available, at expense of the state, until he has achieved a full recovery or the best possible recovery. 

2. Major Mustafizur Rahman is suspended from the Bangladesh Army immediately, pending the investigation into this case. 

3. A genuine criminal investigation result in the arrest and prosecution of all alleged perpetrators. 

4. Razzak and his family get full protection, housing and other needs throughout the course of this investigation and subsequent trial, and receive full redress and guarantees of security for the future. 

We hope that the Government of Bangladesh will use this case as an opportunity to take a stand against human rights abusers in the security forces, and await information of what action it is taking towards this end.

Yours sincerely 

Professor Tessa-Morris Suzuki, School of Culture, History & Language, ANU 
Professor Craig J. Reynolds, College of Asia & the Pacific, ANU 
Professor [emeritus] Anthony Reid, Department of Political & Social Change, ANU 
Dr. Andrew Walker, Department of Political & Social Change, ANU 
Dr. Tyrell Haberkorn, Department of Political & Social Change, ANU 
Dr. Edward Aspinall, Department of Political & Social Change, ANU 
Ms. Emma Campbell, Co-editor, Asia Rights, Journal of Human Rights, Media & Society in Asia & the Pacific 
Mr. Nick Cheesman, Department of Political & Social Change, ANU

Document Type : Press Release
Document ID : AHRC-PRL-022-2011
Countries : Bangladesh,
Campaigns : Attack on FMA Razzak
Issues : Human rights defenders, Land rights, Military, Rule of law, Torture,