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Secret Detentions and Enforced Disappearances in Bangladesh

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Secret Detentions and Enforced Disappearances in Bangladesh

6th July 2017


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Since 2013, law enforcement authorities in Bangladesh have illegally detained scores of opposition activists and held them in secret without producing them before courts, as the law requires. In most cases, those arrested remain in custody for weeks or months before being formally arrested or released. Others however are killed in so-called armed exchanges, and many remain “disappeared.”

Bangladesh law enforcement agencies have a long history of human rights violations. The ruling Awami League party took office in January 2009 with the promise to end such abuses. However, according to Odhikar, a Dhaka-based human rights organisation, Bangladesh law enforcement agencies have since disappeared over 320 people, including suspected criminals, militants, and, more recently, opposition members. Of these, 50 were later killed, and dozens remain disappeared. The rest were either released or formally produced in court as recent arrests.


Such disappearances continue, but many of the targets are now political opponents. In 2016, human rights organisations and the media documented over 90 people disappeared, of which 21 were killed. Nine remain disappeared at time of writing. In the first five months of 2017, Odhikar reported an additional 48 disappearances. In February 2017, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances called on the Bangladesh government to halt the increasing number of enforced disappearances. In April 2017, Swedish Radio reported on a secretly recorded interview with a senior officer in the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), a counterterror unit of police and military, who admitted that the force routinely picks up people, kills them, and disposes of the bodies.

Report by the Human Rights Watch

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