Rights watchdog calls for UN probe into enforced disappearances in Bangladesh

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Nearly 600 people have been forcibly disappeared by security forces since 2009, 86 victims still missing, says new study

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) – A US-based human rights watchdog urged the United Nations on Monday to conduct an independent probe into a decade of enforced disappearances in Bangladesh.

Human Rights Watch made the appeal while publishing its 57-page report titled “Where No Sun Can Enter: A Decade of Enforced Disappearances in Bangladesh.”

“United Nations human rights experts should lead an independent international investigation into enforced disappearances by security forces in Bangladesh,” said the report, urging senior UN officials, donors and trade partners to put pressure on the Bangladeshi government to stop enforced disappearances and prevent future rights abuses.

The report claims that they have “credible and consistent evidence” that law enforcers in Bangladesh have been routinely committing enforced disappearances of opposition activists, businessmen and critics of the government without “accountability.”

Citing data from local rights groups, the report claims that nearly 600 people have been forcibly disappeared in Bangladesh by security forces since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took office in 2009.

The rights body labeled the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the Bangladeshi police’s elite anti-crime unit, as a “death squad,” accusing it of mostly being involved in the rights violations.

In October 2020, 10 US senators published a bipartisan letter calling for sanctions against top RAB officials for extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and torture, while Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, urged the UN Department of Peace Operations to ban RAB in UN peacekeeping missions abroad.

The long report includes over 115 interviews conducted between July 2020 and March 2021 with victims and witnesses.

It also incorporated interviews of family members of some of the victims, who have blamed members of law enforcement agencies for declining to record cases.

Selina Begum, the mother of Mohammad Rezoun Hossain, an activist of an opposition student wing who was arrested by police on Aug. 4, 2016, claimed that her son has not been seen since then.

When Hossain’s family tried to lodge a complaint, the head of the local Benapole police station threatened to kill them.

“Do not search for Rezoun or we will slaughter you all,” Begum quoted the local police chief as saying.

The report added that some of the victims were released or produced in court after weeks or months of secret detention. But in the meantime, many others became victims of extrajudicial killings in the guise of crossfire or gunfights.

“[The Bangladeshi] government has no intention of meaningfully addressing enforced disappearances by its security forces,” said Adams.

No officials of the Bangladeshi government could be reached for comment on the issue despite repeated efforts.

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