Sunday, April 22, 2012

'Disappearances' go unanswered

Law-enforcers seen to be law-breakers

Twenty-two people had disappeared this year so far without a trace creating deep anxiety among people as law enforcers' involvement was widely speculated, said rights body Ain O Salish Kendra.

No bodies of the missing people were recovered.

As many as 51 people went missing last year while the number was 30 in the year before. Of them, 21 bodies were recovered by either people or law enforcers. 

In 2009, only two people went missing.

The missing included activists or members of both ruling and opposition parties as well as people with no political affiliation.

Rights bodies Odhikar and Ain O Salish Kendra largely blame police, Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) or other intelligence agencies for the disappearances in their reports.

Disappearance cases were eroding the credibility of the law enforcement agencies with victims' families invariably putting the blame on law enforcers. The agencies, however, always denied responsibility, which no-one seemed to believe.

Director General of Rab Mokhlesur Rahman denied involvement of the elite force in any such cases.

"We are designated to maintain law and order through ensuring security of the people. Besides, we always try to rescue abducted people. So, why should we be involved in such acts?" Mokhles told The Daily Star.

He added, "It's true in many cases law enforcers could not rescue the victims. But it's not true that we are behind the abduction."

But the April 17 abduction of former lawmaker Ilias Ali and his driver Ansar Ali renewed people's belief about law enforcers' involvement.

Ilias' wife Tahsina Rushdir and Ansar's wife Mukta Begum in separate public statements urged the government and different law enforcement agencies to return their husbands.

The main opposition BNP also alleged that the government and its different intelligence and law enforcement agencies were involved in the April 17 incident.

Such allegations were not new.

Jesmin Akhter, daughter of Habibul Hawlader, a fisherman at Morelganj in Bagerhat, said police picked up her father from their house on June 6 last year. Since then they were clueless as to where her father was, she said.

Talking to The Daily Star on December 10 last year, Jesmin said, "Even death in crossfire is better than disappearance, because the victim's family at least gets the body. But I do not even know whether my father is dead or alive."

Like Tahsina Rushdir, Mukta Begum, and Jesmin, family members and relatives of all the missing people remain in deep concern.

On October 2, Awami League leader Abdul Karim was picked up from his Pallabi house; on November 28, Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal leaders Shamim Hasan Sohel and Ismail Hossain were picked up from Hatirpool; on November 17, seven people were picked up from Malibagh; on December 8, four vendors were picked up from Mirpur; on September 29, Bangladesh Students Union leader Shamim Hasan was picked up from Purana Paltan; on October 20, Ward-20 unit Awami League leader Nur Mohammad was picked up from Savar; and on December 3, his son-in-law Abdul Mannan was picked up from Shyamoli.

Ain O Salish Kendra Investigation Cell Director Noor Khan said, "We find this as an alarming trend that the cases of disappearances are rising. We urge the government to take serious steps to prevent law enforcement agencies from adopting such measures and rescue the abducted people."

National Human Rights Commission Chairman Mizanur Rahman during a function on Saturday said the commission probed a number of abduction cases and found law enforcers' involvement in one or two cases.