Officer reveals police link to extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances

Press release
en fa

(Paris) New revelations concerning a Bangladeshi police unit’s direct involvement in the commission of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances require a thorough, impartial, and independent investigation, FIDH said today.

“It’s time for the government to seriously address the issue of impunity for perpetrators of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances and to hold law enforcement officers, irrespective of their rank and position, accountable for these serious crimes.”

Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH President

In a report published by Swedish Radio on 4 April 2017, a high-ranking officer with the Bangladeshi police Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) unit provided a detailed account of how the RAB has been responsible for scores of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. The officer, who claimed to be involved in dozens of killings, spoke to the radio journalist without knowing his conversation was being recorded.

The officer described the RAB modus operandi, which often involved the abduction of the victim on the pretext of protecting him or her. According to the officer, extra-judicial killings were often staged with the planting of weapons on the victims to make it appear the killing was an act of self-defense. The officer recounted the meticulous process to avoid leaving traces and evidence of RAB officers’ actions: “We have to make sure no clue is left behind. No ID cards that slip-off. We have to wear gloves; we can’t leave footprints behind and have to wear covers on our shoes to prevent that. We can’t smoke during these operations,” the RAB officer explained.

The RAB officer claimed that decisions on the fate of those abducted by the RAB were made high up, and that enforced disappearances can be used to eliminate political opponents. In the recording, the officer also gave detailed examples of how individuals were tortured.

“This report, albeit unverified, should come as no surprise as it is consistent with the pattern of serious human rights violations committed by the RAB that have been documented by FIDH and other human rights organizations.”

Debbie Stothard, FIDH Secretary-General

FIDH documented 53 cases of alleged extrajudicial killings from January to March 2017. At least six of the victims were killed by the RAB.

Extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances committed by police officers, soldiers, and RAB force members were among the key issues of concern that the UN Human Rights Committee (CCPR) highlighted during the consideration of Bangladesh’s initial periodic report under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on 6-7 March in Geneva, Switzerland. The CCPR monitors state parties’ compliance with their legal obligations under the ICCPR.

In its Concluding Observations adopted on 22 March 2017, the CCPR expressed its concern over extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in Bangladesh. The Committee underscored the lack of investigations and accountability for perpetrators of such crimes and that the Bangladeshi government did not accept the occurrence of enforced disappearances in the country. In addition, the CCPR criticized Bangladeshi law for its failure to “effectively criminalize” enforced disappearances.

The CCPR recommended Bangladesh to: criminalize enforced disappearance; investigate all cases of arbitrary killings, enforced disappearances, and the excessive use of force; prosecute the perpetrators; and provide full reparation to the victims. The CCPR also asked the Bangladeshi government to provide information on the implementation of the recommendations it made concerning extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances within one year of the adoption of the Concluding Observations.

According to the 2016 report of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UNWGEID), as of 18 May 2016, there were 34 unresolved cases of enforced disappearances in Bangladesh. On 24 February 2017, the UNWGEID and four UN Special Rapporteurs called on Bangladesh to halt the increasing number of enforced disappearances in the country. The UNWGEID also called on the government of Bangladesh to immediately reveal the whereabouts of all victims of enforced disappearances. The UNWGEID said that in a few years the number of cases had risen from “a few isolated cases” to more than 40, and that the number was continuing to grow. [1] However, FIDH estimates the number of unresolved cases of enforced disappearances is significantly higher. FIDH documented 28 new cases of enforced disappearances that occurred from January to March 2017.

The Bangladeshi government has failed to respond to the repeated requests for a country visit that the UNWGEID has made since March 2013.

Press contact
Ms. Audrey Couprie (French, English) - Tel: +33143551412 (Paris)
Read more