Bangladesh
02.12.02
Urgent Interventions

Bangladesh: Operation Clean Heart - at least 31 deaths in detention

Case BGD 041102.1
Follow-up of Case BGD 041102
Arbitrary detention / Freedom of expression / Death in detention / Torture

Geneva, December 2nd, 2002

The International Secretariat of OMCT has received new information regarding the following situation in Bangladesh.

New information

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the Bangladesh Institute for Human Rights (BIHR) and the Asian Human Rights Commission, both members of OMCT’s network, of the continued serious human rights violations in Bangladesh under the auspices of the so-called “Operation Clean Heart”, including the intimidation of members of the press, as well as arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detention and reports of the use of torture which has led to some 31 deaths.

According to the information received, in recent incidents journalists and their assistants have reportedly been arrested, harassed and intimidated by the military and police. The Directors of the Bangladesh Centre for Development, Journalism and Communication (BCDJC), have also reportedly been under surveillance and threatened for having helped foreign journalists.

Deaths in detention continue to occur. In addition to the 17 persons named in OMCT Urgent appeal BGD 041102, a further 14 persons have died at the hands of the security forces since the operation began. Their names, addresses and other details are as follows:

Liton, S/o, Oyazed Ali, (No political involvement); Jenifer Saeed King of Panchagor (Member of District Chatradal Convening committee); Mizanur Rahman Busha Jubadal of Chuadanga (Member of Jubadal); Lebu Mia of Baithakhal, Nabigonj, Hobigonj (No political involvement); Rashedul Hasan, 210 Tejkunipara, Dhaka (No political involvement); Abdul Haq, Golapgonj, Sylhat (No political involvement); Kala Faruk – a terrorist. (No political involvement); Saiful Islam, S/o, Nur Islam of Bashpara (Member of Jubadal – wings of BNP); Abu Sufian, S/o, Abdul Hamid of 41/12 Chanmia housing area, Mohammodpur, Dhaka (BNP activist); Hazi Abul Kashem (aged 70+);, Bagua, Dhonbari, Tanggail (No political involvement); Abdul Malek, Abdullahpur, Keranigonj, Dhaka (No political involvement); Jahurul Islam, Dhalkanagar, Sutrapur, Dhaka (President of Jubadal – wings of BNP, Ward # 82); Tota Mia, S/o, Edumuddin of Panthapara, Gobindagonj, Gaibandha (No political involvement); Tosu Mia of Bot-tola, Azimpur, Dhaka (No political involvement); Abdul Hakim, S/o, Nabi Hossain, Shibaloy, Manikgonj (No political involvement); Masum of Chechua, Mymensingh (No political involvement). Further information on these victims is available upon request.

The International Secretariat of OMCT is gravely concerned by these reports of mass arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detention. It is also concerned by reports that journalists are being harassed and that the freedom the press is thus being undermined. Of particular concern are the serious allegations of the widespread use of torture during interrogation, which has reportedly led to the deaths of 31 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 the Constitution of Bangladesh, particularly article 11 which guarantees fundamental human rights, and 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.

Brief reminder of the situation

The Bangladeshi authorities launched a massive operation on 17 October 2002, known as “Operation Clean Heart”, which has so far resulted in the arrest and detention of more than 3,000 people and 31 deaths in detention.

According to the information received, some 40,000 members of the Armed Forces are reportedly involved in this operation. The authorities have resorted to using excessive force during the arrests of many persons and have reportedly resorted to the use of torture during interrogation which has resulted in a number of deaths. Thus far, the operation has remained unaccountable and is taking place without clear internal guidelines, resulting in arbitrary and violent military action.

The Bangladeshi authorities claim that it has been launched in order to fight rising levels of crime in the country and justify the military intervention by evoking the supposed failure of civil administration of restoring law and order. The operation has included widespread checkpoints and house-to-house searches, engendering a generalised climate of fear in the country, and there have been serious allegations that the Government’s main objective is the repression of opposition groups rather than the proclaimed reduction of crime.

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 all persons being detained under Operation Clean Heart;
ii. 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;
iii. guarantee adequate reparation to all injured people and the families of the deceased;
iv. order a thorough and impartial investigation into the circumstances of these events, notably the reported use of torture and deaths in detention, in order to identify those responsible, bring them to trial and apply the penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions as provided by law;
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: 0088 / 02 8113244, 811015, 8113243
· Mr. Morshed Khan, Foreign Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Segun Bagicha, Dhaka, Fax: 0088 / 02 / 8617448, 0088 / 02 / 9562163, e-mail: pspmo@bangla.net
· Mr Alhaj Altaf Hossain Chowdury, Minister of Home Affairs, Government of Peoples Republic of Bangladesh. Fax: 0088 / 02 / 8619667
· His Excellency, Ambassador Toufiq Ali, Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the Offices of the United Nations in Geneva, Rue de Lausanne 65, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland, fax: +41 22 7384616, e-mail: mission.bangladesh@ties.itu.int

Please also write to the embassies of Bangladesh in your respective country.

Geneva, December 2nd, 2002

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
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