Bangladesh: Arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention of 13 student leaders

14/09/2018
Urgent Appeal

BGD 003 / 0918 / OBS 114
Arbitrary arrest /
Incommunicado detention /
Torture
Bangladesh
September 14, 2018

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bangladesh.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention of 13 leaders of the student’s movement that organised protests in Dhaka from July 29 to August 8, 2018to demand safer roads and stricter enforcement of traffic laws. The protests followed the death of two high school students in Kurmitola, who were struck by a bus operated by an unlicensed driver [1].

According to the information received, on September 5, 2018, law enforcement officers raided the 13 leaders’ houses in Dhaka’s Mohakhali and Tejgaon neighbourhoods of Messrs. Tarek Aziz, Mehedi Hasan Rajib, Mahfuz, Raihanul Abedin, Tarek Aziz, and Iftekhar Alam, students at the Dhaka Polytechnic Institute; Al Amin and Jahirul Islam Hasib, two university admission seekers; Mujahidul Islam, student at the Bangladesh Textile University in Dhaka; Jahangir Alam, student at the Government Titumir College in Dhaka; Saifullah Bin Mansur, student at the Government Sadat College, Tangail District; and Gazi Borhan Uddin, student at Saic Institute of Medical Technology in Mirpur Sub-District; as well as Mr. Sifat.

The 13 students were arrested following the raid. The whereabouts of 12 of them remained unknown for four days, while Mr. Sifat was released from the Office of the Detective Branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police on September 6, 2018. Mr. Sifat alleged he and the other students were tortured while in the custody of the Detective Branch - a claim that has been denied by the police. The Detective Branch provided contradictory information to the families, first acknowledging the arrest of the students and saying they would be presented to the court on September 7, 2018, before later denying they had been arrested.

On September 10, 2018, the 12 students appeared before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court of Dhaka and were charged with “assaulting policemen” on August 6, 2018. They faced two days of remand. Moreover, Mr. Tarek Aziz was remanded for two additional days in connection with another case filed for allegedly “spreading rumours” under the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act during the August 2018 student demonstrations for road safety. On the same day, police claimed all 12 students had been arrested in Dhaka’s Tejkunipara area on September 9, 2018 - contradicting eyewitness testimony that they had been taken away on September 5, 2018 - and that they were leaders of Islami Chhatra Sibir[2]. All of them were sent to jail after police remand.

The Observatory strongly condemns the arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention of the 13 students for the exercise of their right to freedom of peaceful assembly, as well as the alleged acts of torture against them. The Observatory urges the Bangladeshi authorities to immediately release the 12 students who remain detained and guaranteein all circumstances their physical and psychological integrity.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Bangladesh asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity ofMessrs. Tarek Aziz, Mehedi Hasan Rajib, Mahfuz, Raihanul Abedin, Tarek Aziz, Iftekhar Alam, Al Amin, Jahirul Islam Hasib, Mujahidul Islam, Jahangir Alam, Saifullah Bin Mansur, Sifat and Gazi Borhan Uddin;

ii. Ensure the immediate and unconditional release of Messrs. Tarek Aziz, Mehedi Hasan Rajib, Mahfuz, Raihanul Abedin, Tarek Aziz, Iftekhar Alam, Al Amin, Jahirul Islam Hasib, Mujahidul Islam, Jahangir Alam, Saifullah Bin Mansur and Gazi Borhan Uddin;

iii. Carry out an immediate, thorough, impartial, and transparentinvestigation into the above-mentioned events and allegations of torture in order to identify all those responsible and hold them accountable;

iv. Put an end to all forms of harassment - including at the judicial level - against all the above-mentioned students, as well as all human rights defenders in Bangladesh, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

v. Comply with all their international obligations to respect the exercise of the citizens’ right to peaceful assembly;

vi. Conform to the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular with Articles 1, 6(a) and 12.2;
vii. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments to which Bangladesh is a State party.

Addresses:

· Ms. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 8113243, Email: pm@pmo.gov.bd
· Professor Dr. Gowher Rizvi, Adviser to the Prime Minister (International Affairs), Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 9111312 Email: advinternational@pmo.gov.bd
· Mr. Asaduzzaman Khan, State Minister for Home Affairs of Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 9515541. Email: stateminister@mha.gov.bd
· Mr. Anisul Huq, Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs of Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 7168557. Email: minoflaw@law.com
· Md. Shahriar Alam, State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 9562188. Email: fm@mofa.gov.bd
· Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Bangladesh, Fax: +880 2 956 5058 /+880 2 7161344, E-mail: chief@bdcom.com or supremec@bdcom.com
· Mr. Mahbubey Alam, Attorney General for Bangladesh, Email:adv_mahbubey@yahoo.com
· H.E. Mr. Abdul Hannan, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the People’sRepublic of Bangladesh to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 738 46 16, E-mail: mission.bangladesh@ties.itu.int
· Embassy of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 646 59 98; Email: bdootbrussels@skynet.be

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Bangladesh in your respective countries.

***
Paris-Geneva, September 14, 2018

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax FIDH +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
· Tel and fax OMCT +41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / +41 22 809 49 29

[1] On August 6, 2018, police used tear gas against demonstrators in Dhaka and arrested several protesters. The photographer and human rights defender Mr. Shahidul Alam was also arbitrarily arrested and tortured for his comments on the student protests in international media.See Observatory Urgent Appeal BGD 002 / 0818 / OBS 102, August 6, 2018.
[2] The student wing of Bangladesh Jaamat-el-Islami, an Islamist political party considered as “extremist” by the Government.

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