Recently, Bangladesh graduated from low-income to lower-middle income country in the eyes of the World Bank. Moreover, the South Asian country has reduced poverty, increased the number of female students in primary and secondary education and achieved some success in paring down child and maternal mortality.
Despite this progress, the country's human rights situation leaves a lot to be desired.
Human rights organization Ain O Shalishi Kendra (ASK) published a report showing that in the first six month of this year, 101 people were victims of extrajudicial killings while in custody of different law and enforcement units. Twenty-nine people disappeared or were abducted and 132 died from political violence.
According to a Daily New Age report, more than 200 people, mostly political activists, fell victim to enforced disappearances from 2007 to 2014.
Former Member of Parliament Saiful Islam is on the missing persons list. He was first reported missing in November 2013. His family doesn't not know whether he is alive or dead. Participating in a seminar on the International Day for Victims of Enforced Disappearances in Dhaka, his daughter Mashrufa Islam said:
আমার বাবাকে কী করা হয়েছে, আমরা জানি না৷ তিনি জীবিত, না তাঁকে মেরে ফেলা হয়েছে তাও জানি না৷ এ ঘটনায় মামলা করা হলেও কোনো অগ্রগতি নেই৷ তারপরও নানা রকমের চাপ রয়েছে মামলা না চালানোর জন্য৷
We do not know what was done with my father. We do not know whether he is alive or dead. There is no progress in the case. We faced different kinds of threats and pressure not to pursue this case.
Supreme Court lawyer and director of the Brac University School of Law Dr. Shahdeen Malik said in an interview with the Daily Star that the “culture of impunity” is the main reason why enforced disappearances take place in Bangladesh.
Families of the disappeared people allege that police and special forces, especially Rapid Action Battalion, were involved. But the government rarely takes action against those forces. In a report published last September, Amnesty International mentioned:
Without providing any details, the government said that cases of enforced disappearances have been investigated, and torture charges have been framed “against certain number of law enforcement personnel under [Torture and Custodial Death (Prohibition) Act 2013] (on the basis of evidence)”.
The Asian Human Rights Commission demanded an end to the “impunity”:
— AHRC (@humanrightsasia) April 20, 2012
On Twitter, engineer Shapath Guh urged people to speak out:
— Shapath Guha (@ShapathG) May 3, 2014
Muktasree Chakma wanted to know why the government wasn't stepping in:
— Muktasree Chakma (@SathiChakma) March 5, 2014
The Rapid Action Battalion has made great strides in controlling Islamist militants in Bangladesh. But they have faced widespread criticism over human rights violations and been accused of extrajudicial killings. Human Rights Watch, an international human rights organization, has recommended that the special force be eliminated. The US State Department’s Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2014 pointed to extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances as the most significant human rights problems in Bangladesh.
Article 32 of the Bangladesh Constitution guarantees that no person shall be deprived of life or personal liberty. But Sharif Hasan and Lam-ya Mostaque wrote in Dhaka Tribune that this provision exists only on paper:
In reality, these provisions have not been implemented, and this very fundamental right is being repeatedly violated with complete impunity. Enforced disappearances, that took thousands of human lives in the early 1970s and continued during the tenures of the successive governments with fewer numbers of cases, have resumed, without consequence, in Bangladesh after the RAB started operating in the country.