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BANGLADESH: Twelve-year-old girl repeatedly raped and held hostage by traffic police constable in Dhaka

May 15, 2006

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM

Urgent Appeal

15 May 2006
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UA-160-2006: BANGLADESH: Twelve-year-old girl repeatedly raped and held hostage by traffic police constable in Dhaka

Bangladesh: Rape; child labour; torture; violence against a child, kidnapping; collapse of the rule of law
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding the alleged repeated rape of a 12-year-old girl by a traffic police constable in Dhaka between 7 and 15 April 2006. The traffic police constable falsely assured the girl that he would help her to reach home. However, the police constable took the girl to his house and repeatedly raped her over nine days. Local people and a women's organisation finally rescued the girl from the policeman's house. A case (No. 25) was filed against the alleged perpetrator with the Shabuzbagh police station in Dhaka on April 19. The Dhaka Metropolitan Police authority admitted that the allegation of rape was proved. The alleged perpetrator was suspended from his duty, but has not yet been arrested in connection with the case.

A 12 year-old-girl, whose name we withhold, went to Dhaka from Mymensingh along with her maternal uncle in January 2006 in order to join a businessman's house as a maid servant. She was sent to Mr. Tajul Islam's house at Islampur under the Kotwali police station in Dhaka. The family members of Mr. Tajul Islam used to beat the girl regularly. Unable to further tolerate the beatings by Mr. Tajul's family, the girl fled from the house on 7 April 2006. After losing her direction the girl began crying beside the road within the Jatrabari area in Dhaka. Traffic police constable Md. Azadul Islam (no. 19507), came to her and asked why she was crying. Having been informed about the history of the girl he then took her to his rented house at 29/2 East Bashabo (near Kadamtala school) under the Shabuzbagh police station in Dhaka.

On April 15, Azadul's neighbours learned that the girl had stopped eating her food and was regularly crying. They came to Azadul's house and learned that the policeman had reportedly raped the victim several times during her stay in the house. She complained to Azadul's wife, who also threatened her not tell this fact to anybody, saying she would be punished if she did so. The neighbours then informed the local leaders of the Mahila Parishad (Women's Council) to take up the case. The Mahila Parishad area committee rescued the girl from the policeman's house, and took her to the Shabuzbagh police station. The Mahila Parishad leaders lodged a case (No. 25) with the Shabuzbagh police on April 19. After receiving medical treatment at the One-stop Crisis Centre (OCC) of the Dhaka Medical College Hospital, the girl is now being sheltered in a safe house with the help of others.

The Officer-in-Charge (OC) of the Shabuzbagh police station, Mr. Mohammad Shafik, admitted that the girl was raped by Azadul, who has been absconding since the incident. The Deputy Commissioner (DC) for the East Zone of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) stated that Azadul Islam is (temporarily) suspended and would be arrested as soon as he is found.

SUGGESTED ACTION: 

Please send letters to the Inspector General of Police and the other persons listed below expressing your concerns about the alleged repeated rape of a 12-year-old girl by a traffic police constable in Bangladesh. The concerned government agencies must be urged to initiate a thorough and impartial investigation into this case. The perpetrators must be brought to justice, and adequate medical treatment and reparation must be provided to the victim.

Suggested letter:

Dear ______________,

BANGLADESH: Twelve-year-old girl repeatedly raped and held hostage by traffic police constable in Dhaka

Name of the victim: Name withheld, 12-year-old, living in Ragobpur village, P.O. Kachari Bazar, under Kotwali police station in Mymensingh district.
Name of alleged perpetrator: Md. Azadul Islam, traffic police constable (no. 19507) of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), living in 29/2 East Basabo, under the Shabuzbagh police station in Dhaka
Date of incident: Between 7 and 15 April 2006
Place of incident: The house of the alleged perpetrator at 29/2 East Basabo, under the Shabuzbagh police station in Dhaka

I am writing to express my deep shock regarding the alleged repeated rape of a 12-year-old girl by a traffic police constable in Dhaka, who detained the victim in his house for nine days.

According to the information I have received the12-year-old girl was appointed as a maid servant in the house of businessman, Mr. Tajul Islam, at Islampur in Dhaka, in January 2006. Due to the intolerable torture inflicted on her in that house, the victim fled from there to go back to her home in Mymensingh on 7 April. Having been confused about the direction to take she soon became lost and began crying beside the road within the Jatrabari area in Dhaka. Traffic police constable Mr. Md. Azadul Islam (No. 19507) soon came across the victim and assured her that he would help her and took her to his house.

On April 15, Azadul's neighbours noticed that the victim was crying and had stopped eating. They then informed the local leaders of the Mahila Parishad, who rescued the girl from the policeman's house, and lodged a case (No. 25) against the alleged perpetrator with the Shabuzbagh police station on April 19. The girl received medical treatment at the One-stop Crisis Centre (OCC) of the Dhaka Medical College Hospital. The Shabuzbagh police and the Deputy Commissioner (East Zone) admitted the allegation was true.

I have been informed that the alleged perpetrator is absconding and was suspended from his duty. I am aware, however, that the alleged perpetrator has not been arrested or permanently suspended from his job.

As I am sure you are no doubt aware, this is not the first case of rape of a minor girl by a Bangladeshi law enforcement personnel. Thus, this recent case is yet another violation of women and children in Bangladesh by the very people who are employed to protect them.

I urge your strong intervention to ensure that the victim is afforded adequate medical assistance and treatment for the trauma she has suffered. She must also be given compensation and appropriate protection while the case is going on.

I further urge you to ensure that the alleged perpetrator is charged without further delay and that a speedy disposition of the victim’s case is carried out in court. I likewise urge that the Government of Bangladesh take effective steps to prevent such violence against children from reoccurring.

I trust that you will take immediate action on this case.
Yours sincerely,
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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Sayed J. R. Mudassir Husain
The Chief Justice
The Supreme Court of Bangladesh
Supreme Court Building
Ramna, Dhaka-1000
BANGLADESH
Tel: +88-02-9562792
Fax: +88-02-9565058

2. Mr. A.J. Mohammad Ali
The Attorney General of Bangladesh
The Office of the Attorney General
Supreme Court Building
Ramna, Dhaka-1000
BANGLADESH
Tel: +88-02-9562868
Fax: +88-02-9561568

3. Mr. Md. Lutfozzaman Babor MP
State Minister
The Ministry of Home Affairs
Government of the Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh
Bangladesh Secretariat
Dhaka-1000
BANGLADESH
Tel: +88-02-7169069 (O)/ +88-02-8359000 (R)
Fax: +88-02-7160405/ +88-02-7164788 (O)

4. Mr. Abdul Quayum
Inspector General of Police (IGP)
Bangladesh Police
Police Headquarters’
Fulbaria, Dhaka-1000
BANGLADESH
Tel: +88-02-9562054(O)/ +88-02-7176451/ +88-02-7176677
Fax: +88-02-9563362 (O)/ +88-02-9563363

5. Mr. SM Mizanur Rahman
Commissioner
Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP)
DMP Headquarters
1, Shaheed Captain Monsur Ali Road
Ramna, Dhaka-1000
BANGLADESH
Tel: +88-02-8322746 (O)/ +88-02- 8316248
Fax: +88-02-8322746 (O)

6. Mr. Jalal Ahmed
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate
Metropolitan Magistrate Court of Dhaka
Dhaka-1100
BANGLADESH
Tel: +88 02 7173707 (O)
Fax: +88 02 7114470 (On request to the Office of ADC Prosecution)

7. Mr. Louis-Georges Arsenault
Country Representative
UNICEF
P.O. Box 58 Dhaka - 1000
BANGLADESH
Tel: +880 2 9336701 to 6720
Fax: +880 2 9335641/ +880 2 9335642
E-mail: Dhaka@unicef.org

8.  Mr. Jacob Egbert Doek
Chairperson
Committee on the Rights of the Child
OHCHR-UNOG
1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Fax: +41 22 917 9022

9. Ms. Yakin Erturk
Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women
c/o Ms. Vernonica Birga
Room 3-042
c/o OHCHR-UNOG
1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9615
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (Attn: Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women)
Email: lohanlon@ohchr.org

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ahrchk@ahrchk.org)

Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
UA-160-2006
Countries :
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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.