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BANGLADESH: Chatkhil Police tortured a man to death and filed a controversial complaint to provide impunity to perpetrators

May 31, 2010

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-072-2010

 

 31 May 2010


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BANGLADESH: Chatkhil Police tortured a man to death and filed a controversial complaint to provide impunity to perpetrators

ISSUES: Torture; Extrajudicial killing; Impunity; Rule of law
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NEW REPORT:
Human rights hopes and frustrations in post-emergency democratic Bangladesh
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has learned that the Chatkhil police, of Noakhali district have tortured a man to death on 13 May 2010. The witnesses told the AHRC that the body of the deceased torture victim had several marks from injuries. The police prepared a complaint and got it signed by the victim's mother to register it as part of an attempt to provide impunity to the alleged perpetrators. Please petition the authorities to hold an investigation by competent judicial officials to bring the perpetrators to justice immediately.

CASE DETAILS: (Based on the interviews of relatives and documents collected from relevant public offices)

Mr. Robiul Islam Khokon, aged 23, used to live in his father-in-law's house in Swandwip Para under the jurisdiction of the Chouddagram police station in Comilla district. He was arrested on a bus on 21 December 2009 while he was travelling from his father-in-law's house to Dhaka along with his relatives. A team of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) comprising Sub Inspector (SI) Mr. Mohammad Shafiqul Islam, SI Mr. Nurul Islam, Corporal Mr. Mohammad Syadur Rahman, Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI)/1449 Mr. Mohammad Amzad Ali Mondol, ASI/08 Mr. Konkon Kumar Mondol, and Nayek/49915 Mr. Mohammad Rezaul Karim of the RAB-11 apprehended Khokon. A passenger named Mr. Mohammad Yousuf Khan, who was sitting beside Khokon, was also arrested by the RAB-11.

Later, the RAB-11 officers claimed that they seized a 7 inches long automatic Italian pistol (PN-11741) with 6 cartridges from Khokon and another locally made 12 inches long gun from Yousuf.

On 22 December, the RAB-11 lodged a First Information Report (FIR) (No. 30) with the Siddhirganj police station of the Narayanganj district underSections 19 (A) and 19 (F) of the Arms Act-1878 charging him with possession of illegal firearm. After a week, on 29 December, the police submitted an investigation report to the Court bringing charges (Charge Sheet No. 329) under the above mentioned provisions of the law regarding the complaint, which turned into Government Register Case No. 404 of 2009.

Following the case (Criminal Miscellaneous Case No. 190 of 2010), Mr. Md. Zahirul Hoque, District and Sessions Judge of Narayanganj, rejected Khokon’s bail petition as had also happened in the Magistrate's Courts previously. Khokon has been detained in the Narayanganj District Jail since the trial is pending before the Sessions Court of Narayanganj district.

On 28 October 2009, almost two months before Khokon's arrest and detention in prison, there had been a robbery case (No. 8) registered against 20 to 25 unidentified persons with the Chatkhil police station under Sections 395 and 397 of the Penal Code-1860.

On 9 April 2010, Sub Inspector (SI) Mr. Abdul Mannan, the Investigation Officer (IO) of the robbery case (No. 8) of the Chatkhil police station applied to the Judicial Magistrate's Cognizance Court 4 of Noakhali that Khokon be "shown arrest" in the robbery case. The Court granted the application of the police officer accordingly.

On the following day, 10 April, SI Abdul Mannan submitted another petition before the Magistrate that Khokon be detained in police remand for seven days for interrogation on the robbery case. On 25 April, the Magistrate's Court granted 2-days police remand responding to the wish of the police officer.

On 10 May, SI Mannan brought Khokon to his custody at the Chatkhil police station from the Narayanganj District Jail for interrogation in "police remand". On the evening SI Mannan called in Khokon's father Mr. Mohammad Shahjahan. At around 8pm, when Shahjahn came to the Chatkhil police station SI Mannan allegedly demanded BDT 20,000.00 (USD 210.00) as a bribe on condition of not torturing Khokon. Shahjahan claims that he told the police that he was too poor to pay such an amount, which was unaffordable to his family. He claims that he told the police officer, "I am not capable of paying 20 paisa (cents). How can I pay you 20 thousand taka?" Then, the police officer allegedly threatened to kill Shahjahan’s son and said, "If you want to see your son alive bring money whatever ways you can!" Shahjahan left the police station and discussed the matter with his relatives and neighbours regarding the way of arranging money in order to save his son's life.

As none of Khokon's relatives returned to the police with money, the police allegedly tortured Khokon over night in their custody. The police officers allegedly beat Khokon with blunt tools including a bottle, stick and an iron rod. As a result of torture when Khokon's condition deteriorated, at 2:30am on 11 May, the police took him to the Chatkhil Upazilla Health Complex, which admitted him and provided him with emergency treatment. At around 8:30am the Chatkhil Health Complex doctors referred Khokon to the Noakhali General Hospital for the required medical treatment as his condition deteriorated. However, the police suppressed this information from Khokon's relatives.

Meanwhile, in the morning of 11 May, Shahjahan went to the Chatkhil police station to see his son, however, the police denied him entrance to the police station. At one point, a police source named Mr. Faruk showed a person from a far distance claiming that it was Khokon and suggested him to go home. The family remained unaware of Khokon’s real situation throughout the day.

In the afternoon when Khokon's condition deteriorated at the Noakhali General Hospital the doctors referred him to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) the largest hospital of the country, for necessary treatment. At 6pm SI Abdul Mannan, Constable Mohammed Sohidullah and Constable Golam Mostafa took Khokon to the DMCH and reached there at 12:10am on 12 May. On 13 May 2010, at 7am, Khokon died at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital, according to the Death Certificate (page-1 and page-2) issued by the DMCH.

Eyewitnesses to the event told the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) that Khokon's dead body had serious marks of injuries. His legs were swollen with cuts and bandages on the ankle joints and fingers of both hands were smashed and his chest was bruised. According to a doctor of the Noakhali General Hospital, Khokon had several marks of injury all over his body, especially in the neck, hands, chest and legs.

During the whole process of medical treatment in three separate hospitals Khokon's body was tied to iron bars with shackles on his ankles which were fastened to two rods that had been tied to a band around his waist. Locally, the use of such iron bars is known as "Danda-Berry", which is used for dangerous criminals accused of murder or robbery. The eyewitnesses, who saw the dead body before the post-mortem, witnessed the "Danda-Berry" tied to Khokon's body at the morgue of the DMCH (Please see the photo here).

According to the eyewitnesses, SI Mr. Jalilur Rahman of the Shabagh police station of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police prepared an Inquest Report, which was later signed by the Executive Magistrate, Mr. Mohammad Kamruzzaman. The police officers hid the Inquest Report from the media, human rights defenders and relatives of the deceased. The Shahbagh police have registered an Unnatural Death (UD) case regarding the death of Khokon. The doctors of the Forensic Medicine Department of the Dhaka Medical College have conducted the post-mortem, which always remains secret until the police formally complete the investigation of the case.

Khokon's mother Mrs. Rawshan Akter told the AHRC that police officers came to her house and got her signature on a draft complaint, which the police prepared, on 14 May 2010. Later, she came to know that the police registered a murder case (No. 4, under Section 302 of the Penal Code-1860) against SI Abdul Mannan with the Chatkhil police. In the complaint it was mentioned that SI Mannan tortured Khokon between 1am and 2am of the early morning of 12 May in the open air under a jackfruit tree inside the premises of the Chatkhil police station. However, in fact, the official record of the Chatkhil Upazilla Health Complex shows that Khokon was taken to the hospital on 11 May early in the morning at 2:30AM, one day earlier than the date mentioned in the complaint prepared by the police officers.

Later, SI Abdul Mannan was arrested and detained in the Noakhali District Jail, as the Court did not grant him bail on the charge of the murder of Khokon. The Superintendent of Police (SP) of the Noakhali district suspended SI Abdul Mannan from his duty temporarily.

According to the local human rights groups of Bangladesh, the registration of a murder case with the police station regarding a custodial death due to police torture is unprecedented. The human rights defenders suspect that the police, who investigate the criminal cases, have registered the case with the intension of leading the issue toward impunity for the alleged perpetrator. It has been alleged that the police officers accused only one person for the murder of Khokon and did not include any person as witness of the incident of torture.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write to the authorities below asking that they immediately intervene into the case and ensure that it is investigated by competent judicial officers. Those found to have been involved in the torture and subsequent killing in this case must be prosecuted without delay. The families of the victims and the witnesses must be afforded adequate compensation and protection from any further harassment and threats from law-enforcement agents.

Please note that the Asian Human Rights Commission has written a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteurs on Question of Torture as well as Extrajudicial and Summery Execution requesting their prompt interventions in this case.

To support this appeal, please click here:

 

 

SAMPLE LETTER:

BANGLADESH: Chatkhil Police tortured a man to death and file controversial complaint to provide impunity to perpetrators

Name of victim: Mr. Robiul Hasan Khokon, aged 23, living in Mozzotpara (Jheelpara) under the jurisdiction of the Chatkhil police station in Noakhali district

Name of the alleged perpetrators (Torture):
1. Mr. Abdul Mannan, Sub Inspector of Police
2. Mr. Mohammed Sohidullah, Police Constable
3. Mr. Golam Mostafa, Police Constable
4. Mr. Humayan Kabir, Inspector of Police and Officer-in-Charge (OC)

All are attached to the Chatkhil Police Station of Noakhali district

Name of the alleged perpetrators (Arrest and Detention):
1. Mr. Mohammad Shafiqul Islam, Sub Inspector
2. Mr. Nurul Islam (Badge No. 465944), Sub Inspector
3. Mr. Mohammad Syadur Rahman, Corporal
4. Mr. Mohammad Amzad Ali Mondol, Assistant Sub Inspector (Badge No.1449)
5. Mr. Konkon Kumar Mondol, Assistant Sub Inspector (Badge No. 08)
6. Mr. Mohammad Rezaul Karim, Nayek (Badge No. 49915)

All are attached to the Rapid Action Battalion-RAB-11 based in Dhaka and Narayanganj districts

Place of incident (Torture): Chatkhil police station in Noakhali district
Date of incident (Custodial death due to torture): 13 May 2010

I am deeply concerned to hear of the custodial death of Mr. Robiul Hasan Khokon allegedly due to torture by the Chatkhil police of the Noakhali district on 13 May 2010. The police had forced the mother of the deceased to sign a badly-drafted complaint, which the Chatkhil police registered as a murder case (No. 4, dated 14 May 2010), in an attempt to hide the truth regarding the torture of Mr. Khokon and his subsequent death while in police custody. The police have also been suppressing the Inquest Report of the dead body of Khokon. I demand a thorough investigation of this custodial death by competent judicial officials immediately. The alleged perpetrators must be identified and prosecuted for the crime. The family, and the eyewitnesses, of the deceased must be afforded with adequate financial compensation and protection from further harassment.

I am informed that a team of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested Mr. Robiul Hasan Khokon on 21 December 2009 from a bus when he was travelling to Dhaka. The RAB-11, arrested Khokon from the Dhaka-Chittagong highway under the jurisdiction of the Siddhirganj police station of Narayanganj district. The paramilitary force later charged Khokon with illegally possessing firearms. Since the case was registered against Khokon he was detained in the Narayanganj District Jail.

On 9 April 2010, Sub Inspector (SI) Mr. Abdul Mannan, the Investigation Officer (IO) of a robbery case (No. 8) of the Chatkhil police station applied to the Judicial Magistrate's Cognizance Court 4 of Noakhali that Khokon be arrested in the robbery case. The Court granted the application of the police officer accordingly.

I am aware that on 10 April, SI Abdul Mannan submitted another petition before the Magistrate that Khokon be kept in police remand for seven days for interrogation on the robbery case. On 25 April, the Magistrate's Court granted 2 days police remand.

On 10 May, SI Mannan brought Khokon to the Chatkhil police custody from the Narayanganj District Jail for interrogation in police remand. In the evening SI Mannan called in Khokon's father, Mr. Mohammad Shahjahan, and allegedly demanded BDT 20,000.00 (USD 210.00) as a bribe in exchange for not torturing his son. Shahjahan claims that he told the police that he was too poor to pay such an amount, which was unaffordable for his family. The police officer allegedly threatened to kill Shahjahan's son.

Shahjahan's failure to pay the bribe allegedly led to them torturing Khokon over night in their custody. The police officers allegedly beat Khokon with blunt tools including a bottle, stick and an iron rod. As a result of torture when Khokon's condition deteriorated, at 2:30am on 11 May the police took him to the Chatkhil Upazilla Health Complex, which admitted him and provided emergency treatment. At around 8:30am the Chatkhil Health Complex doctors referred Khokon to the Noakhali General Hospital for required medical treatment as his condition deteriorated. In the afternoon when Khokon's condition diteriorate at the Noakhali General Hospital the doctors referred him to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) the largest hospital in the country, for necessary treatment. At 6pm SI Abdul Mannan, Constable Mohammed Sohidullah and Constable Golam Mostafa took Khokon to the DMCH and reached there at 12:10am, early in the morning of 12 May. On the following morning, 13 May, at 7AM, Khokon died at the DMCH. However, the police suppressed this information from Khokon's relatives.

I have learned from the eyewitnesses that Khokon's dead body had serious marks of injuries. His legs were swollen with cuts and bandages on the ankle joints and the fingers of both hands were smashed and his chest was bruised. According to a doctor from the Noakhali General Hospital, Khokon had several marks of injury all over his body, especially on the neck, hands, chest and legs.

I have been informed that during the whole process of medical treatment in three separate hospitals Khokon's body was tied to iron bars with two rings on his ankles which were fastened with two rods that had been tied with another ring at the waist. The eyewitnesses, who saw the dead body before the post-mortem, saw Khokon's body fixed to the iron bars at the morgue of the DMCH. I condemn the police's actions regarding serious ill-treatment of a suspect in this case.

According to the eyewitnesses, SI Mr. Jalilur Rahman of the Shabagh police station of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police prepared an Inquest Report, which was later signed by the Executive Magistrate Mr. Mohammad Kamruzzaman. The police officers have allegedly suppressed the Inquest Report from the media, human rights defenders and relatives of the deceased. The Shahbagh police have registered an Unnatural Death (UD) case regarding the death of Khokon. The doctors of the Forensic Medicine Department of the Dhaka Medical College have conducted the post-mortem, which always remains secret until the police formally complete the investigation of the case. I am aware that the police manipulate the post-mortem reports through this ongoing practice of maintaining secrecy.

Khokon's mother Mrs. Rawshan Akter alleges that police officers came to her house and got her signature on a draft complaint, which the police prepared, on 14 May 2010. Later, she learned that the police turned that complaint into a murder case (No. 4, under Section 302 of the Penal Code-1860) against SI Abdul Mannan with the Chatkhil police. In the complaint it was mentioned that SI Mannan tortured Khokon between 1am and 2am on 12 May in the open air under a jackfruit tree inside the premises of the Chatkhil police station. However, I am aware that the official record of the Chatkhil Upazilla Health Complex shows that Khokon was taken to the hospital on 11 May early in the morning at 2:30AM, one day earlier than the date mentioned in the complaint prepared by the police officers.

I have been informed that SI Abdul Mannan was later arrested and detained in the Noakhali District Jail, as the Court did not grant him bail for the charge of the murder of Khokon. The Superintendent of Police (SP) of the Noakhali district suspended SI Abdul Mannan from his duty temporarily. But, I question why the police did not include any person as eyewitnesses of the case?

I am aware that the registration of a murder case with the police station regarding a custodial death due to police torture is unprecedented in Bangladesh. The police, who investigate the criminal cases, have allegedly registered the case with the intension of paving the way to ensure impunity to the alleged perpetrator. It has been alleged that the police officers accused only one person for the murder of Khokon and did not include other officers and personnel of the police.

In light of the above information, I strongly demand a thorough investigation into this alleged death due to police torture by competent judicial officers. The alleged perpetrators, who are responsible for torture, must be identified and prosecuted without any attempt of providing impunity to them.

It is a common practice in Bangladesh that the law-enforcement agencies stigmatize the victims of torture and other gross human rights abuses, including the victims of extrajudicial killings, as "criminals" whenever they commit a crime such as torture or extrajudicial killing. A person associated with an alleged crime does not authorize the law enforcement agencies to torture or kill him or her as far as the country claims that it respects the rule of law.

According to the documentations exposed by the human rights groups on Bangladesh's situation, I am of the opinion that the country's law enforcement and criminal justice system is highly dysfunctional. I am fully aware that torture is not defined as a "crime" in the domestic law despite the fact the Bangladesh, as a party to the Convention Against Torture, has an obligation of criminalizing torture and protecting the rights of the citizens from torture perpetrated by state agents. I demand the enactment of the "Torture and Custodial Death (Prohibition) Bill 2009", which has been pending before the parliament since 10 September 2009 as a private member's bill in the house.

I hope that necessary actions will be taken promptly.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mrs. Sheikh Hasina
Prime Minister
Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh
Office of the Prime Minister
Tejgaon, Dhaka
BANGLADESH
Fax: +880 2 811 3244 / 3243 / 1015 / 1490
Tel: +880 2 882 816 079 / 988 8677
E-mail: pm@pmo.gov.bd or ps1topm@pmo.gov.bd or psecy@pmo.gov.bd

2. Mr. Mohammad Rezaul Karim
Chief Justice
Supreme Court of Bangladesh
Supreme Court Building
Ramna, Dhaka-1000
BANGLADESH
Fax: +880 2 956 5058 /+880 2 7161344
Tel: +880 2 956 2792
E-mail: chief@bdcom.com or supremec@bdcom.com

3. Barrister Shafique Ahmed
Minister
Ministry of Law, Justice & Parliamentary Affairs
Bangladesh Secretariat
Dhaka-1000
BANGLADESH
Tel: +880 2 7160627 (O)
Fax: +880 2 7168557 (O)
Email: info@minlaw.gov.bd

4. Ms. Sahara Khatun MP
Minister
Ministry of Home Affairs
Bangladesh Secretariat
Dhaka-1000
BANGLADESH
Tel: +880 2 7169069 (O)
Fax: +880 2 7160405, 880 2 7164788 (O)
E-mail: minister@mha.gov.bd

5. Mr. Mahbubey Alam
Attorney General of Bangladesh
Office of the Attorney General
Supreme Court Annex Building
Ramna, Dhaka-1000
BANGLADESH
Fax: +880 2 956 1568
Tel: +880 2 956 2868

6. Justice Amirul Kabir Chowdhury
Chairman
National Human Rights Commission
6/3 Lalmatia, Block-D
Dhaka-1207
BANGLADESH
Tel: +880 2 9137740
Fax: +880 2 9137743
E-mail: nhrc.bd@gmail.com

7. Mr. Nur Mohammad
Inspector General of Police (IGP)
Bangladesh Police
Police Headquarters'
Fulbaria, Dhaka-1000
BANGLADESH
Fax: +880 2 956 3362 / 956 3363
Tel: +880 2 956 2054 / 717 6451 / 717 6677
E-mail: ig@police.gov.bd

8. Hassan Mahmood Kahndker
Director General
Rapid Action Battalion
RAB Headquarter
Uttara, Dhaka
BANGLADESH
Tel: + 880 2 8919078/ 880 2 8961101
Mobile: +8801199886600 / 8801713014050/ 8801713374469
Fax: + 880 2 896 2884
Email: dg_rab@rab.gov.bd

9. Md. Asaduz Zaman Mia
Deputy Inspector General of Chittagong Range
Bangladesh Police
Office of the DIG of Chittagong Range
Zakir Hossain Road
Khulshi, Chittagong
BANGLADESH
Tel: +880 31 650120, +880 31 655466 (O)
Mobile: +88 01713-373623
Fax: +88 031 652111 (O)
E-mail: digchittagong@police.gov.bd


Thank you.

Urgent Appeal Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)


Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
AHRC-UAC-072-2010
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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.