Int’l voices to investigate enforced disappearances becoming louder22 September 2022
Staff Reporter :
The international voices on the alleged incidents of the enforced disappearance in the country are becoming louder and the government of Bangladesh has been urged to investigate it by an independent mechanism.
The issue took the centre stage during a dialogue on the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance during the 51st regular session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 20 September.
The meeting called upon the government of Bangladesh to implement the recommendations made by the immediate past UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet during her visit to Bangladesh between August 14 and August 17.
Bachelet urged the government of Bangladesh to create an 'independent, specialised mechanism' that would work closely with victims, victims' families, and civil society to investigate allegations of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.
"My office is ready to provide advice on how such a body could be designed in line with international standard,' she added.
'Inviting the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances to visit Bangladesh would also show a commitment to decisively address this issue. As the biggest contributor of uniformed personnel to UN peacekeeping missions, Bangladesh should ensure it has a robust system in place for the careful human rights screening of security personnel,' she said during her visit.
Meanwhile, the Chair of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances Luciano A Hazan on Tuesday urged the government of Bangladesh to respond to a general allegation conveyed last year on the alleged forced disappearance that took place at the hands of the Rapid Action Battalion, and the undue pressure on human rights organizations.
"Attention needed to be given to implementing the recommendations of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and victims' voices should be heard," he added.
During the council session, Bangladesh permanent mission first secretary Abdullah Al Forhad stated that Bangladesh had never slipped away from embracing international human rights obligations and had remained constructively engaged with the Working Group by sharing information about almost all cases of alleged enforced disappearance.
The Bangladesh representative said that in many cases, the 'perceived' victims had reappeared, disproving the allegations of enforced disappearance.
'We further noticed a worrying trend among 'miscreants' to use fake identity and disguise as law enforcement agency members to carry out criminal activities like 'abductions' or 'kidnappings', he added.
During the session, Hazan also called upon the government of Bangladesh to respond to general allegations conveyed by the Working Group in the past year and in its 125th Session in September 2021 on the alleged enforced disappearance that took place at the hand of RAB.
He also sounded critical of the undue pressure on human rights organisations, especially Odhikar, whose registration as a civil society organisation was not renewed. By now, the Working Group received 81 allegations from Bangladesh.
Meanwhile, the Working Group urged the authorities of Bangladesh in their 2022 report to redouble their efforts to provide additional information, including responding to its related general allegation transmitted after its 125th session.
The Working Group also emphasised that the Bangladesh government must protect relatives of disappeared persons, human rights defenders, and civil society organisations working on their behalf from any threat, intimidation, or retaliation.
Chair of the Working Group Luciano Hazan, in his speech also said that over its 30 years, the Working Group had worked tirelessly to help the relatives of the disappeared, and would continue to do so.
"There was greater awareness about this egregious crime, and about legislative tools to combat it. But its face was changing, and there were new and alarming trends that needed to be tackled," he added.
The speakers in the dialogue also highlighted that enforced or involuntary disappearances were crimes against humanity and should not be tolerated.
Many speakers welcomed the Working Group's report and underlined the importance of its efforts to combat enforced disappearances.
Some speakers said that some parties abused the mechanisms of the Working Group by providing it with false allegations and information. These speakers called on the Working Group to devote more efforts to verify the truthfulness of claims.