Bangladesh
04.11.02
Urgent Interventions

Bangladesh: arrest and detention of more than 3,000 people including 17 deaths in detention

Case BGD 041102
Death in detention / Torture / Arbitrary Arrest and Detention

The International Secretariat of OMCT requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in Bangladesh.

Brief description of the situation

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC-HK) and the Bangladesh Institute of Human Rights (BIHR), both members of the OMCT network, of the arrest and detention of more than 3,000 people in Bangladesh and of 17 resulting deaths, in an ongoing operation that began on October 17th, 2002, known as “Operation Clean Heart.”

According to the information received, some 40,000 members of the Armed Forces are reportedly involved in this operation, which the authorities claim has been launched in order to fight rising levels of crime in the country. Reliable sources state that the authorities have resorted to using excessive force during the arrest of many persons. Furthermore, they have reportedly used torture during interrogation, which is the cause of a number of deaths.

Reports state that 12 of the deaths occurred in police custody, 4 in hospital, and one person died from gunshot wounds in the street. Furthermore, ten of those who have died during the operation are known to have been politically active, as one victim was a member of the main opposition party, the Awami League, and 8 victims had been members or local leaders of the ruling BNP (Bangladesh National Party). The names and activities of the 17 victims are:

1) Shafiqul Islam of Gopalpur, Sherpur, Bogra, no political involvement, a rickshaw puller; 2) Eyakub Ali, S/o, Sadek Ali, Uttorkhan, Uttara, Dhaka, Organizing Secretary, Uttara thana BNP, Dhaka; 3) Jahangir, S/o, Abdur Razak of Baunia, Uttara, Dhaka, member of Jubadal wing of BNP; 4) Abul Khayer Ratan of Kashiani, Local thana BNP leader of Kashiani, Gopalgonj; 5) Amirul Islam Rocket Chowdhury, of Bhola, General Secretary, District Shramic league, Bhola; 6) Afzal Hossain, of Savar, Dhaka, no political involvement; 7) Shafiuzzaman of Rasulpur, Gaibandha, no political involvement; 8) Nazmul Haq Milon, S/o, Pachu Mia of Rajshahi, BNP activist; 9) Abdul Aziz Sarder of Pangsha, Rajbarim, General Secretary, Pangsh thana BNP, Faridpur; 10) Khorshed Alam of Noakhali, no political involvement, a ricksha puller; 11) Masum Biswas of Heraj market, Khulna, member of Awami League; 12) Kala Chand Tripura of Bashkhali police camp, Chittagong, Police personnel; 13) Sohel Ahmed Jamir of Gopalgonj, member of Chatradal- wing of BNP; 14) Abu Saeed Delu of Begumgonj, Noakhali, no political involvement; 15) Tota Khan, S/o, Mochon Khan of Khoazpur, Madaripur, no political involvement; 16) Jenifer Saeed King of Panchagor, member of District Chatradal Convening committee; 17) Mizanur Rahman Busha Jubadal of Chuadanga, member of Jubadal.

According to information received, the authorities have set up checkpoints on major inter-district roads, at which vehicles are stopped and searched and passengers are body-searched and questioned. In certain areas in the country’s cities, house-to-house searches are being conducted, as a result of which a large number of people have been arrested and taken for questioning. The authorities are reportedly arresting persons based on a list of names, however, there is no information about how the list has been prepared and how authentic it is.

While some of these people have been released within hours, others have been detained incommunicado (without contact with the outside world) for days, and there are therefore serious concerns that they may be being subjected to torture during this time. Human rights groups in Bangladesh have reported that many of those who have been released show signs of beatings and ill-treatment and require hospital treatment. The families of the deceased persons claim that their deaths resulted from torture, and witnesses have reported having seen marks on their bodies as they were taken to the hospital. The Government, however, denies these allegations, claiming that, in the case of 10 deaths in police custody, they were due to natural causes, namely heart attacks.

According to the information received, there has been no public announcement as to the circumstances under which the government felt compelled to involve the army in this operation. Moreover, the legal framework under which the army action is taking place has not been established publicly. The Government says that the army had to be called in because the civil authorities were failing to cope with rising lawlessness, and that the aim of the operation is to improve law and order. The operation has, thus far, engendered a generalised climate of fear in the country, amidst serious allegations that the Government’s main objective is the repression of opposition groups rather than the proclaimed reduction of crime.

The International Secretariat of OMCT is gravely concerned by these reports of torture, mass arbitrary arrests including the use of excessive force, and incommunicado detention. Of particular concern are the serious allegations of the widespread use of torture during interrogation, which has reportedly led to the deaths of detainees. Given that the operation is ongoing and that many persons remain in detention, OMCT fears that the number of victims of torture and casualties will continue to rise.

OMCT therefore calls upon the Bangladeshi Government to immediately halt this operation, to release all persons being detained as a result of these events in the absence of valid legal charges, and to guarantee the personal integrity and access to legal counsel and family visits of all detainees, in accordance with its obligations under international law. In this context, OMCT would like to recall that Bangladesh is a State party to both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment. OMCT also calls upon the authorities to launch an impartial and independent investigation into these events, in order to bring to justice the perpetrators of the afore-mentioned human rights violations, notably the alleged use of torture and excessive force, and to award adequate reparation to the victims and the families of the deceased.

Action requested

Please write to the authorities in Bangladesh urging them to:

i. take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of the above-mentioned persons;
ii. guarantee adequate reparation to all injured people;
iii. order a thorough and impartial investigation into the circumstances of these arrests in order to identify those responsible, bring them to trial and apply the penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions as provided by law;
iv. order their immediate release in the absence of valid legal charges or, if such charges exist, bring them before an impartial and competent tribunal and guarantee their procedural rights at all times;
v. guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with international human rights standards.

Addresses

· Honourable Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Prime Minister’s Office, Old Parliament House, Tejgaon, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Fax: +88 02 8113244 / 8113243, e-mail: ps1@pmo.bdonline.com; pmmobd.org; psecretarymobd.org
· Mr. Morshed Khan, Foreign Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Segun Bagicha, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Fax: +88 02 9562163, e-mail : pspmo@bangla.net
· Mr Alhaj Altaf Hossain Chowdury, Minister of Home Affairs, Government of Peoples Republic of Bangladesh. Fax: +88 02 8619667 / 9552323
· Mr. Barrister Moudud Ahmed, Ministry of Law, Justice & Parliamentary Affairs, Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Secretariat, Dhaka, Fax: +88 02 861 8557, E-mail: minoflaw@bdonline.com

Please also write to the embassies of Bangladesh in your respective country.
Geneva, November 4th, 2002
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
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