Amnesty reports of lax inquiry, punishment of HR violations

Amnesty International, the global human rights watchdog in its annual report for 2014 has said. “The exact number of people who were forcibly disappeared was not known; some estimates suggested over 80. Of the documented cases of 20 people subjected to enforced disappearance between 2012 and 2014, nine people were subsequently found dead. Six had returned to their families after periods of captivity lasting from weeks to months, with no news of their whereabouts until their release. There was no news about the circumstances of the other five.”
Following the enforced disappearance and subsequent killing of seven people in Narayanganj in April, three officers of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) were detained and investigated for their alleged involvement in abductions and killings; this rose to at least 17 RAB officers by the end of the year. This was the first such action since the formation of the battalion in 2004. Amnesty International welcomed the investigation as a move towards holding law enforcement officials accountable for alleged human rights violations. However, concerns continued that the government might drop the cases if public pressure to bring them to justice lessened. Apart from this case, there were no clear indications of a thorough investigation into other incidents such as the unexplained abduction and killing of Abraham Linkon in February.The report said more than 100 people were killed during opposition protests against (2014) elections, some after police opened fire on demonstrators who were often violent. None of these deaths were believed to have been investigated. Supporters of opposition parties reportedly attacked bus commuters with petrol bombs, killing at least nine people and injuring many others, (during those protests) the report said.
“Torture and other ill-treatment was widespread and committed with impunity. Police routinely tortured detainees in their custody. Methods included beating, suspension from the ceiling, electric shocks to the genitals and, in some cases, shooting detainees’ legs. At least nine people died in police custody between January and July 2014, allegedly as a result of torture.”
It said the government’s use of Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act severely restricted the right to freedom of expression. Under this section, those convicted of violating the Act could be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison if the charges were brought against them before 6 October 2013; at that time, an amendment not only increased the maximum punishment to 14 years in prison but also imposed a minimum punishment of seven years.
Section 57 of the ICT Act criminalized a wide array of peaceful actions such as criticizing Islamic religious views in a newspaper article or reporting on human rights violations. At least four bloggers, two Facebook users and two officials of a human rights organization were charged under Section 57 of the ICT Act during 2013-2014.
They included bloggers Asif Mohiuddin, Subrata Adhikari Shuvo, Mashiur Rahman Biplob and Rasel Parvez; and human rights defenders Adilur Rahman Khan and Nasiruddin Elan. More than a dozen media workers, including journalists, said that they had been threatened by security agencies for criticizing the authorities. The threats were usually in phone calls directly to the journalists, or via messages to their editors. Many journalists and talk show participants said they exercised self-censorship as a result. Freedom of expression was also threatened by religious groups. In at least 10 instances, these groups were reported to have spread rumours that a certain individual had used social media to insult Islam, or had engaged in allegedly anti-Islamic activity in the workplace. At least five people were subsequently attacked; two were killed and others sustained serious injuries. The two killed were Ahmed Rajib2 and a Rajshahi University teacher, AKM Shafiul Islam, who died of stab wounds in November 2014, allegedly perpetrated by members of a group who denounced his opposition to female students wearing burqa in his class as “un-Islamic”.
On death penalty Amnesty said, courts continued to impose death sentences. Eleven were imposed by the International Crimes Tribunal. One death sentence was imposed directly by the Supreme Court after the government appealed against the defendant’s lesser verdict by the Tribunal. He was executed in December 2013. Prisoners whose death sentences were upheld on appeal were at imminent risk of execution, the report said.
The report said verdicts by the International Crimes Tribunal, a Bangladeshi court set up in 2009 to try crimes committed during the1971 Bangladesh independence war, were delivered amid a highly polarised political atmosphere. Supporters of these trials demanded death sentences for those on trial regardless of the strength of the evidence presented against them, the report said. – News Desk