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BANGLADESH: Girl sexually harassed and boy arbitrarily arrested, tortured and detained by the Senhati Camp police in Khulna

September 7, 2006

[NOTICE: The AHRC have recently developed a new automatic letter-sending system. However, in this appeal, we could not include e-mail addresses of some of the Bangladesh authorities. We encourage you to send your appeal letters via fax or post to those people. Fax numbers and postal addresses of these authorities are attached below with this appeal. Thank you.]

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

7 September 2006

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UA-296-2006: BANGLADESH: Girl sexually harassed and boy arbitrarily arrested, tortured and detained by the Senhati Camp police in Khulna

BANGLADESH: Sexual harassment; teasing; violence against woman; threat; intimidation; extortion; torture; arbitrary arrest; detention; deprivation of medical treatment; collapse of rule of law
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has been informed that two persons of a family and their neighbours were beaten, while one of them was arbitrarily arrested and detained, the other was almost raped by police of the Senhati camp in Khulna district. The police also extorted money and threatened to kill the arrested person in "Crossfire" and have implicated him with fabricated charges while detaining him in prison. The government authorities have still taken no action on this case.

An Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI), who is the second-in-command (2IC) of the Senhati police outpost under the Dighalia police station in Khulna district, Mr. Mirazul Islam, used to tease a girl, Ms. Munira Khatun, who is a student of class eight at the Star Jute Mills High School, on her way from home and school.

On 23 July 2006, at around 1:30 pm, ASI Mr. Mirazul and police constable (number: 1632), Mr. Sentu Mollah went to Munira's house. ASI Mirazul entered into Munira's room and attempted to rape her. Munira bite Mirazul's left ear to save her from the attempt of rape. Meanwhile, Munira's brother, Mr. Rafiqul Islam, cousin Ms. Rexona Begum, Ms. Asma Begum, and sister-in-law Mrs. Abeda Begum rushed to rescue Munira from the policeman. ASI Mirazul and constable Sentu then proceeded to beat Munira and her brother. Then the police arrested Mr. Rafiqul and proceeded to beat him with a bamboo stick, rifle bat and a chain on the street in front of about fifty villagers. They then put Rafiqul's leg in the paddle wheel of a rickshaw van.

The police detained Rafiqul in the Senhati police camp for the night. Sub Inspector Mr. Anwar Hossain, who is the In-Charge of the Senhati police camp, and ASI Mr. Mirazul demanded Taka 10,000 (USD 150) from Munira's family on condition of not killing Rafiqul in "crossfire". Munira's family arranged Taka 5,000 with their utmost capacity and gave the money to the police to save the life of Rafiqul. The police then became angry with the family for not paying the full amount; they beat Rafiqul with stick and rifle bat again and put hot water in Rafiqul's nose. Due to the sever brutality by the police, Rafiqul's left hand and right leg were broken and he received injuries all over his body. Eyewitnesses told the independent human rights fact-finding team that Rafiqul cannot stand and walk. He has also been denied adequate medical treatment in prison.

On July 24, ASI Mr. Mirazul took Rafiqul to the Dighalia police station and lodged a case (number: 7) under sections 186, 224, 225, 332, 353 and 511 of the Penal Code against Mr. Rafiqul and his relatives that came to rescue Munira from the attempted rape. The following day, Rafiqul was produced before the Magistrate Court who then ordered Rafiqul to be imprisoned despite his critical health condition due to police torture.

Facing repeated threats and finding no alternative way to get redress from the authority Munira expressed her family's helplessness in a press conference at the Khulna Press Club held on 28 July 2006. She lodged a petition case (number: 340/2006) with the Magistrate Court in Khulna on July 30 under sections 9, 4 (B) and 30 of the Women and Children Repression Prevention (Special Provision) Amendment Act 2003. The Superintendent of Police (SP) of the Khulna district, Mr. Moynul Islam, has thus been conducting an investigation regarding the case.

ASI Mr. Mirazul, however, claims that "Rafiqul is the 492 criminal on the Department of Special Branch (DSB) police's criminal list" although none of the police officers or police station of the district has been able to assert any specific complaint that exists with the police; however, it is claimed that he was arrested because of restraining the police to do their duties. ASI Mirazul claims that Rafiqul was injured while he was being restrained by the police so that they could accomplish their official job.

The government authorities have not taken action against the alleged perpetrators and the police are threatening to withdraw the case. Ms. Munira and Rafikul's family are living in fear of further harassment by the police and feeling extremely insecure in their locality.

ADDITIONAL COMMENT: 

The personnel of the law enforcing agents in Bangladesh are corrupt and habituated to abuse their policing powers by all means. Teasing, beating, extortion, threatening, intimidation, implicating in fabricated charges by the police and detaining an arbitrarily arrested person by the Magistrate's court without justification are very common practice all over the country. This incident is an ideal example of the existing blind magistracy in practice that is run by the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is also the authority of the Bangladesh Police. There is no specific authority that can give redress to the victims of the ongoing brutality by the so-called law enforcing agents in Bangladesh. Nobody cares about the unbelievable and intolerable sufferings, financial loss and social stigmatizations that are being caused by the errant policemen and their associates. The government and all its other organs are only working for the protection of the abusers of the law of the land, as well as the violators of human rights and do not protect the fundamental rights of the citizens. (For further information, please see: Lawless law enforcement and the parody of judiciary in Bangladesh)

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please send a letter immediately to the relevant Bangladesh government authorities listed below urging them to take prompt action. They must investigate the conduct of the police in the alleged sexual harassment of Munira, arbitrary arrest and detention of Rafiqul, extortion, threat and intimidation of the family.  Please also send your letters to the relevant UN agencies listed below.

Sample Letter:

Dear __________, 

BANGLADESH: Girl sexually harassed and boy arbitrarily arrested, tortured and detained by the Senhati Camp police in Khulna

Name of the victims:
1. Ms. Munira Khatun, aged 14, a student of class nine at the Star Jute Mills High School, daughter of the late Mr. Idris Hawladar Harun, living in Uttar Chandani Mahal under the Dighalia police station in Khulna district 
2. Mr. Md. Rafiqul Islam, aged 22, son of the late Mr. Idris Hawladar Harun, living in Uttar Chandani Mahal village under the Dighalia police station in Khulna
3. Mr. Firoz Gazi, aged 28, son of Mr. Sirajul Islam, living in Uttar Chandani Mahal under the Dighalia police station in Khulna district
4. Ms. Asma Begum, aged 30, daughter of Mr. Hakim Sheikh, living in Uttar Chandani Mahal under the Dighalia police station in Khulna district
5. Ms. Rexona Begum, aged 22, daughter of the late Mr. Harun, living in Uttar Chandani Mahal under the Dighalia police station in Khulna district
6. Mrs. Abeda Begum, aged 33, wife of Mr. Hakim Sheikh, living in Uttar Chandani Mahal under the Dighalia police station in Khulna district
Name of alleged perpetrators:
1. Mr. Mirazul Islam Siraj, Assistant Sub Inspector of the Senhati police outpost under the Dighalia police station in Khulna district
2. Mr. Anwar Hossain, Sub Inspector of Police and in-charge of the Senhati police outpost under the Dighalia police station in Khulna district
3. Mr. Sentu Mollah, police constable number 1632, attached to the Senhati police outpost under the Dighalia police station in Khulna district
Date of incident: 23 July 2006
Place of incidence: Senhati police camp under the Dighalia police station in Khulna district

I am writing to express my grave concern about the alleged attempted rape of a school girl, as well as the arbitrary arrest, torture and detention of her brother and the harassment of the persons mentioned above by the police in Khulna district, Bangladesh on 23 July 2006. 

According to the information I have received, Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI), who is the second-in-command (2IC) of the Senhati police outpost under the Dighalia police station in Khulna district, Mr. Mirazul Islam, used to tease a girl, Ms. Munira Khatun, who is student of class eight at the Star Jute Mills High School, on her ways from home and school.

On 23 July 2006 at around 1:30 pm, ASI Mr. Mirazul and police constable (number: 1632), Mr. Sentu Mollah went to Munira's house. ASI Mirazul entered into Munira's room and attempted to rape her. Munira bite Mirazul's left ear to save her from the attempted rape. Meanwhile, Munira's brother, Mr. Rafiqul Islam, cousin Ms. Rexona Begum, Ms. Asma Begum, and sister-in-law Mrs. Abeda Begum rushed to rescue Munira from the policeman. ASI Mirazul and constable Sentu then proceeded to beat Munira and her brother. Then the police arrested Mr. Rafiqul and proceeded to beat him with a bamboo stick, rifle bat and a chain on the street in front of about fifty villagers. They also put Rafiqul's leg in the paddle wheel of a rickshaw van.

I have been informed that the police detained Rafiqul in the Senhati police camp for the night. Sub Inspector Mr. Anwar Hossain, who is the In-Charge of the Senhati police camp, and ASI Mr. Mirazul demanded Taka 10,000 (USD 150) from Munira's family on condition of not killing Rafiqul in "crossfire". Munira's family arranged Taka 5,000 with their utmost capacity and gave the money to the police to save the life of Rafiqul. The police then became angry with the family for not paying the full amount; they again beat Rafiqul with a stick, a rifle bat and then put hot water in his nose. Due to the sever brutality by the police, Rafiqul's left hand and right leg are broken and he has received injuries all over his body. Eyewitnesses told the independent human rights fact-finding team that Rafiqul cannot stand and walk. He has also been denied adequate medical treatment in prison.

On July 24, ASI Mr. Mirazul took Rafiqul to the Dighalia police station and lodged a case (number: 7) under sections 186, 224, 225, 332, 353 and 511 of the Penal Code against Mr. Rafiqul and his relatives that came to rescue Munira from the attempted rape. The following day, Rafiqul was produced before the Magistrate Court and he was ordered to be imprisoned despite his critical health condition due to police torture.

I am aware that Ms. Munira, facing repeated threats and finding no alternative way to get redress from the authorities, has expressed her family's helplessness in a press conference at the Khulna Press Club held on 28 July 2006. She lodged a petition case (number: 340/2006) with the Magistrate Court in Khulna on July 30 under sections 9, 4 (B) and 30 of the Women and Children Repression Prevention (Special Provision) Amendment Act 2003. The Superintendent of Police (SP) of the Khulna district, Mr. Moynul Islam, has thus been conducting an investigation regarding the case.

I have learned that ASI Mr. Mirazul, however, claims that "Rafiqul is the 492 criminal on the Department of Special Branch (DSB) police's criminal list" although none of the police officers or police stations of the district have been able to assert any specific complaint that exists with the police; however, it is claimed that he was arrested because of restraining the police to do their duties. ASI Mirazul claims that Rafiqul was injured while he was being restrained by the police so that they could accomplish their official job.

I am also informed that the government authorities have not taken any action against the alleged perpetrators and the police are threatening to withdraw the case. Ms. Munira and Rafikul's family are living in fear of further harassment by the police and feeling extremely insecure in their locality.
In light of the above, I request that you ensure that a prompt, fair and thorough investigation is launched into the conduct of the Senhati camp police regarding the alleged attempt rape of Ms. Munira and the alleged arbitrary arrest, torture and detention of her brother Mr. Rafiqul. If it is found that the alleged perpetrators committed crimes against the victims, then they must be made accountable for their actions and be indicted under section 211 of the Penal Code of Bangladesh. The victims must also be vindicated from the fabricated charges and Mr. Rifaqul must be released from arbitrary detention.  I also urge you to take action to ensure the security of the families of the victims from possible harassment and threats from the police or other law enforcement personnel while the investigation is on going. The victims also must receive adequate compensation as well as proper medical treatment. 

The repeated violations by the law enforcement officers in Bangladesh point to the urgent need of training and need for strict discipline within the police and other law enforcement agencies. Without these, such abuses will no doubt continue. I am also concerned that such violations continue despite the presence of Bangladesh on the UN Human Rights Council and having been a state party of the Convention against Torture.  

Therefore, I strongly urge you together with other government officials in Bangladesh to take genuine action to reform the current law enforcement system by introducing better training programmes, enforcing strict discipline, as well as handing down punishment for any misconduct and crimes committed against the ordinary citizens of Bangladesh.

I look forward to your urgent intervention in this matter.
 
Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND LETTER TO:

1. Mrs. Begum Khaleda Zia
Prime Minister
The Government of the Peoples' Republic of Bangladesh
Office of the Prime Minister
Old Parliament House,
Tejgaon, Dhaka
BANGLADESH
Tel: +880 2 8828160-79, 9888677
Fax: +880 2 8113244 or 3243 or 1015 or 1490

2. Mr. Md. Lutfuzzaman Babar
State Minister
The Ministry of Home Affairs
Government of the Peoples' Republic of Bangladesh
The Bangladesh Secretariat
Dhaka-1000
BANGLADESH
Tel: +88-02-7169069 (O) or 8359000 (R)
Fax: +88-02-7160405, +88-02-7164788

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

4. Mr. A J Mohammad Ali
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

5. Mr. Anwarul Iqbal
Inspector General of Police (IGP)
Bangladesh Police
Police Headquarters'
Fulbaria, Dhaka-1000
BANGLADESH
Tel: +88-02-9562054 or 7176451 or 7176677
Fax: +88-02-9563362 or 9563363

6. Mr. Mezbah-un-Nabi
Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG)
Khulna Range
Office of the DIG of Khulna Range
Khulna
BANGLADESH
Tel: +88-041-761823 (O)
Fax: +88-041-761300 (O)

7. Professor Manfred Nowak
Special Rapporteur on the Question of Torture
Attn: Mr.Sarir Syed
C/O OHCHR-UNOG
1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9230
Fax: +41 22 9179016 (general)

8. Ms. Leila Zerrougui
Working Group on arbitrary detention
OHCHR-UNOG
1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (ATTENTION: WORKING GROUP ARBITRARY DETENTION)

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 VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN)

10. Mr. Leandro Despouy
Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers
Att: Sonia Cronin
Room: 3-060
OHCHR-UNOG
1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9160
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (ATTN: SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR INDEPENDENCE JUDGES & LAWYERS)

Thank you.
Urgent Appeal Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ahrchk@ahrchk.org)

Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
UA-296-2006
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.