March 22, 2022
DHAKA – Dhaka is a hotbed for enforced disappearances, stated a CGS report launched yesterday.
The Centre for Governance Studies, in its report titled ‘Where are they: enforced disappearance in Bangladesh’, tracked down and analysed 71 cases of enforced disappearances between 2019 and 2021, and found that 26 of those cases – a third – were just from Dhaka.
Families of 52 victims alleged that people identifying themselves as law enforcers picked them up.
The report states that of the allegations made, Rapid Action Battalion was named in 40 percent of the cases, followed by Detective Branch of the Police, whose name came up in 30 percent.
Khulna, Mymensingh, Chattogram and Narayanganj each had between six and eight cases of enforced disappearances in the last three years, the report said.
About a third of those who were forcibly disappeared were shown arrested while a quarter are still missing.
Seven percent of the victims turned up dead.
Of the 23 who came back, none of them said a word.
Most of the victims of enforced disappearance were politicians and businesspeople, the researchers found. Seven percent were Islamic preachers.
Even students were not spared, accounting for 11 percent of all cases.
Other than those, there were three journalists, found the report.
The researchers had gathered all the data by scanning newspapers during this time period.
“The government should set up an independent commission to investigate cases of enforced disappearances,” said Professor Ali Riaz, distinguished professor of political science at Illinois State University, in a virtual discussion yesterday.
“It must immediately provide information on the victims to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced Disappearance and allow the group to visit Bangladesh.”
The research also pointed out that enforced disappearances increased in the years that the national election took place.
Nur Khan Liton, secretary general of Ain o Salish Kendra, warned about a similar increase in this phenomenon during the upcoming elections.
Dr Badiul Alam Majumder, secretary of Shushanoer Jonno Nagorik, said enforced disappearances are gaining legitimacy among law enforcement.
“I once had the chance to interview a law enforcer involved with forcibly disappearing people. He told me that they are trying to rid society of crime by perpetrating these acts.”
Liton claimed, “There were a few victims who came back, who have spoken privately, if not publicly. It is clear from descriptions of their conditions that our country has certain secret detention centres… We need to investigate where these are.”
Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers’ Association, said law enforcers are tasked with finding missing people – not making them go missing.
The programme was moderated by Zillur Rahman, executive director of CGS.