Dhaka, Aug 28 (efe-epa).- Enforced disappearances continued in Bangladesh during the Covid-19 pandemic, a coalition of 12 human rights groups said in a statement on Friday, asking the authorities to hold the responsible persons accountable.
From Jan. 1, 2009 to July 31, 2020, at least 572 people have been reported forcibly disappeared by security forces and law enforcement agencies in Bangladesh, the rights group, including New York-based Human Rights Watch, said.
“While some were eventually released, shown arrested, or discovered killed by security forces and law enforcement agencies in the so-called ‘crossfire’ encounters, the whereabouts of many of them remain unknown,” said the statement.
Local rights group Odhikar, which is among the signatories of the statement, in its latest report said at least four persons disappeared after they were picked up allegedly by members of law enforcement agencies, between April and June 2020.
All of them were later shown as arrested under different laws and produced before the court after a few days of disappearance, it said.
The victims include journalist Shafiqul Islam Kajal, who was found by Border Guard Bangladesh near the Indian border 53 days after he went missing.
The journalist is still in jail as he was later shown arrested in three cases filed under the controversial Digital Security Act.
“Bangladesh does not have a domestic law to define disappearance by law enforcing agencies. It blocked the way for victims to seek justice,” Odhikar director Nasiruddin Elan told EFE.
The statement of the rights group released ahead of International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances on Aug. 30 said the economic hardship caused by the pandemic has had a detrimental impact on the mental, social, and physical well-being of the families of the disappeared.
“Many of these families are facing increased economic hardship since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, since in many cases the victims of enforced disappearance were the family’s primary income earners,” said the statement.
The rights group said enforced disappearance is part of the ruling Awami League’s ongoing crackdown on freedom of speech as disappearance, or threats of disappearance, is used to silence critics and repress the opposition.
“The Awami League-led government’s persistent denial that enforced disappearances occur in Bangladesh and its refusal to credibly investigate the fate and whereabouts of disappeared persons is an abdication of responsibility to address this serious violation of human rights,” the rights groups said. EFE-EPA