Bangladesh: Release of Mr. Abu Bakar Siddique

22/04/2014
Urgent Appeal

The Observatory has been informed about the release of Mr. Abu Bakar Siddique, the husband of Ms. Rizwana Hasan, Executive Director of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyer’s Association (BELA).

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bangladesh.

New information:

According to the information received, around 11pm on April 17, 2014 - about 33 hours after his abduction - Mr. Abu Bakar Siddique was left by his abductors blindfolded near Ansar camp in Mirpur, who gave him Tk 300 (about USD $4). (See background information). He then hired a rickshaw from there to Kazipara from where he took a CNG-run auto-rickshaw to travel home.

Police spotted Mr. Abu Bakar Siddique near Kalabagan on his way home on the CNG-run auto-rickshaw around 12:00am on April 18, and took him to Dhanmondi police station, after which he went home. Mr. Abu Bakar Siddique reported that his abductors did not torture him nor demand any ransom. As of issuing this Urgent Appeal, it still remains unclear who abducted him or why.

Mr. Nurul Islam, Superintendent of Narayanganj police, said they would try to find out the motive and the persons behind the abduction after gathering more information from the victim.

The Observatory welcomes Mr. Abu Bakar Siddique’s release and thanks all the persons, institutions and organisations who intervened on his behalf. However, the Observatory reiterates its fears that Mr. Abu Bakar Siddique’s abduction was only aimed at sanctioning the human rights activities of his wife, Ms. Rizwana Hasan.

In the past, Ms. Rizwana Hasan and her relatives have been subjected to threats because of her human rights activities against illegal encroachment, land grabbing, industrial pollution and other illegal acts affecting the environment. In 2012, she received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for her "uncompromising courage and impassioned leadership in a campaign of judicial activism in Bangladesh that affirms the people’s right to a good environment as nothing less than their right to dignity and life".

The Observatory calls upon the authorities of Bangladesh to order an immediate, thorough, effective and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned facts, the result of which must be made public, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a competent and impartial civil tribunal and apply to them the penal sanctions provided by the law.

More generally, the Observatory is greatly concerned by acts of reprisals against relatives of human rights defenders in Bangladesh, as those acts seem to be only aimed at silencing their human rights activities, and calls upon the authorities of Bangladesh to ensure in all circumstances that defenders are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance or fear of reprisals.

Background information:

On April 16, 2014, unidentified men abducted Mr. Abu Bakar Siddique, a businessman, from Fatulla in Narayanganj, while he was travelling to Dhaka from Narayanganj by car. The vehicle with the unidentified men hit Mr. Abu Bakar Siddique’s car near Bhuiyan Filling Station in Fatulla at around 2:45pm. When Mr. Siddique and the driver of his car, Ripon, exited the car to assess the damage, the unidentified men sprayed something into Ripon’s eyes, blinding him, and took Mr. Siddique away.

Action requested:

Please write to the authorities in Bangladesh, urging them to:

i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Abu Bakar Siddique, Ms. Rizwana Hasan and her relatives, as well as of all human rights defenders in Bangladesh;

ii. Order an immediate, thorough, effective and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned facts, the result of which must be made public, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a competent and impartial civil tribunal and apply to them the penal sanctions provided by the law;

iii. Put an end to any kind of harassment against all human rights defenders in Bangladesh and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance or fear of reprisals;

iv. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially:
- its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, as well as
- its Article 12.2, which provides that the State shall “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of his or her rights”;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bangladesh.

Addresses:

· Ms. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister, Office of the Prime Minister, Gona Bhaban, Old Sangsad Bhaban, Tejgaon, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 8113243, Email: pm@pmo.gov.bd

· Professor Dr. Gowher Rizvi, Adviser to the Prime Minister (International Affairs), Old Sangsad Bhaban, Tejgaon, Dhaka 1215, Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 9111312. Email: advinternational@pmo.gov.bd

· Mr. Asaduzzaman Khan, State Minister for Home Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, Bangladesh Secretariat Building 8, 1st and 3rd florr, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 9515541. Email: stateminister@mha.gov.bd

· Mr. Anisul Huq, Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Bangladesh Secretariat, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 7168557. Email: minoflaw@law.com

· Md. Shahriar Alam, State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Segun Bagicha, Dhaka 1000, Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 9562188. Email: fm@mofa.gov.bd

· Mr. Mahbubey Alam, Attorney General for Bangladesh, Attorney General’s Office, Supreme Court Premises, Dhaka, Bangladesh, Email: adv_mahbubey@yahoo.com

· H.E. Mr. Abdul Hannan, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to the United Nations in Geneva, 65 rue de Lausanne, 1202 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, 29-31 rue J. Jordaens, 1000 Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 646 59 98; Email: bdootbrussels@skynet.be

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Bangladesh in your respective country as well as to the EU diplomatic missions or embassies in Bangladesh.

***
Geneva-Paris, April 22, 2014

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

The Observatory, an OMCT and FIDH venture, is dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

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