New Delhi, Aug 30 (EFE).- The nonprofit Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday urged Bangladesh to allow transparent and independent investigations into cases of enforced disappearances in the Asian country.
The HRW statement came on the occasion of the International Day of Victims of Enforced Disappearances.
“The evidence of Bangladesh authorities’ involvement in countless enforced disappearances is overwhelming,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“The Bangladesh government should stop feigning ignorance and work with the UN to provide urgent answers and effective accountability,” she added.
HRW highlighted a recent report by media outlet Netra News – banned in the Asian country – revealing how “Bangladesh officials were allegedly holding and torturing victims of enforced disappearance at a secret detention site called Aynaghar (house of mirrors).”
The article compiled testimonies of former prisoners held in Aynaghar, a center managed by the military intelligence agency DGFI, of which they obtained satellite images of the location from the technology company Maxar.
Since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her party, the Awami League, returned to power in 2009, some 600 forced disappearances have occurred, while some were released or brought before the courts.
Others have become victims of extrajudicial executions, according to HRW.
In August 2021, the rights watchdog published a report on enforced disappearances in Bangladesh alongside a webpage documenting 86 cases of apparently disappeared people.
Although the government has repeatedly denied these claims, the United States in December imposed economic sanctions against the controversial elite unit of the police force, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).
It has also imposed sanctions on seven current and former senior officials of the body, including the current police chief for alleged human rights abuses.
In response to the sanctions, the authorities launched a “campaign of threats and intimidation” against families of victims of enforced disappearances to presumably contradict and undermine the families’ allegations, according to the nonprofit.
Earlier this month, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, during her visit to Bangladesh, urged the government to establish a “specialized mechanism that works closely with victims, families and civil society to investigate allegations of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.”
However, Bangladesh’s Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan earlier this month denies that enforced disappearances occur in the country, claiming that these were cases of people hiding to escape justice, or due to family problems.
Khan stressed that most of the 76 cases recorded by a commission on enforced disappearances have already been resolved and that 28 of them were fleeing justice over criminal charges, according to the organization.
To increase pressure on Bangladesh, HRW believes that other governments should consider joining US sanctions against units of the security forces and individuals to address the lack of accountability and prevent further abuses.
“Families of victims of enforced disappearances have spent years being tormented by authorities’ flippant denials about the whereabouts of their loved ones,” Ganguly said.
“The Bangladesh government should mark the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances by taking the first step toward accountability,” she concluded.