Bangladesh: Joint Statement: Call for justice after another police shooting of a human rights defender
Joint Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission, the Observatory for
the Protection of Human Rights Defenders [a joint programme of FIDH and the
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)], and Odhikar
April 6, 2016
The Observatory for the Protection of
Human Rights Defenders, the Asian Human Rights Commission, and Odhikar urge the global human rights
community to raise its voice and call for justice for the several human rights
defenders and journalists who have been shot in the limbs by police forces in
latest of such shootings happened on March 31, 2016, when police forces shot
eight bullets into the leg of Mr. Md. Afzal Hossain, a Bangladeshi
journalist affiliated with Odhikar
and Bhola District Correspondent of NTV – a private television channel – and
other national and regional newspapers. Afzal was observing the local
governmental election at Rajapur Government Primary School, which was turned to
a polling centre for the election of the Rajapur Union Council.
Hossain told the Asian Human Rights Commission that he filmed the scene of
ballot stuffing with his camera that morning, when he found that the candidates
of the ruling party were rigging votes inside the polling booths. While Afzal
was compiling the information for his next reports for the media, the cadres of
the ruling party and other opposition parties became violent, beating one another’s
supporters and hurling crude bombs at each other. At around 11:40 a.m., while
Afzal and his journalist colleagues were waiting near the police on duty at the
polling centre, the Police Superintendent of Bhola district, Mr. Mohammad
Moniruzzaman Monir, called Afzal over to check his physical location. At about
12:00 p.m., after paramilitary forces had intervened at the scene and there was
no more active violence, a Police Constable named Zulhash suddenly pointed his
loaded shotgun at Afzal’s left leg and shot him. Some journalist
colleagues immediately took Afzal to the Bhola General Hospital.
doctors of Bhola District's General Hospital removed the bullets from Afzal’s
leg, but were not able to confirm whether his leg could be saved from amputation.
Amputations have taken place in many other cases of police shooting the limbs
of detainees in Bangladesh.
April 2, due to the lack of necessary medical equipment and lack of
availability of skilled physicians at Bhola General Hospital, Afzal was
referred to Sher-E-Bangla Medical College Hospital in Barisal. There, the
doctors found that the personnel of Bhola Hospital had distorted the
information about the shooting in Afzal’s medical record, having written that
'rubber bullets' were used instead of the live ammunition which was actually
used. This distortion in the medical record allegedly occurred
under pressure from the Superintendent of Police of Bhola.
the Sher-E-Bangla Medical College Hospital does not have the facilities to
properly determine whether an amputation was necessary, on April 3 doctors
referred Afzal to the National Institute of Traumatology and Orthopaedic
Rehabilitation (NITOR) in Dhaka, where Afzal arrived in the morning of April 4.
The doctors at NITOR dressed Afzal’s leg but refused to admit him, allegedly
due to overcrowding and lack of capacity to accommodate him in the hospital. Finally, Afzal was
admitted to a private clinic for treatment of his leg.
Our organisations fear that the
police specifically targeted Afzal and deliberately shot him in retaliation for
his continued fight against human rights violations perpetrated by the police
and for exposing electoral irregularities. We express our utmost concern for
the physical and psychological safety of Afzal and his family, and we call upon the
Bangladeshi authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment towards human
rights defenders and journalists in the country.
In addition, the fact that NITOR, the largest
public traumatology hospital Bangladesh, refused to treat Afzal, and the lack
of public response by the journalist community regarding the shooting, both
suggest that the Bangladeshi authorities are putting pressure on several groups
to ignore this case, as well as the generalised and widespread human rights
abuses happening across the country.
Over the last few
years, there have been several cases of the police and the Rapid Action
Battalion (RAB) of Bangladesh shooting detainees and demonstrators in the
limbs, all with total impunity. The 2015 Annual Report of Odhikar reported 33 cases of people shot in their legs by law
enforcement agencies. The victims of this
patterned crime of the law-enforcement agencies have been denied justice. The authoritarian
government, which mostly relies on the lethal force of the law-enforcement
agencies, guarantees impunity to the perpetrators as a default practice in the
country. The victims of this violence by law-enforcement agents have been
denied justice, as the government has failed to investigate and prosecute the
perpetrators of what appears to be a pattern of shootings of defenseless
The international human rights community cannot remain silent
in the face of the multiple human rights violations taking place in Bangladesh,
particularly those at the hands of law enforcement agents. Our organisations
strongly urge civil society and inter-governmental organisations to raise their
voice and to call for justice and accountability for human rights violations in
Bangladesh, in particular the targeted violence against human rights defenders
Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that
monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice
and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these
rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human
Rights Defenders (OBS) was created in 1997 by FIDH and OMCT. The
objective of this programme is to intervene to
prevent or remedy to situations of repression against human
Odhikar is a Bangladeshi non-governmental
organizationthatdocuments and records human rights
violations through fact-finding missions and information received by its
network of local human rights defenders. Odhikar also monitors media reports in
twelve national daily newspapers.
 See Odhikar, Statistics: January-December 2015.