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Govt rejects HRW report on border guards

Law minister calls account of mutiny aftermath 'inaccurate, baseless and motivated'

  • ucanews.com reporter, Dhaka
  • Bangladesh
  • July 6, 2012
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The government yesterday angrily rejected a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report calling for the suspension of an “unfair and flawed” trial of border guards accused of mutiny three years ago.

The New York-based rights group also called for Dhaka to disband the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), a special security force accused of torture.

Law Minister Shafique Ahmed responded by saying the report was “inaccurate, baseless and motivated,” the Bangladesh News Agency reported.

“We have categorically told them that their report is totally unacceptable,” he said. “We have asked them not to publish such reports in future.”

He went on to accuse HRW of interfering in the internal affairs of Bangladesh, adding that it was up to the government to determine whether to abolish the RAB.

Published on Wednesday, the report focuses on the aftermath of a February 2009 mutiny by the Bangladesh Rifles, now known as the Border Guard Bangladesh, which threatened to overthrow the army as it spread nationwide prompting a wave of violence.

More than 1,000 of those accused of mutiny have been arrested and were either sentenced or await trial.

“The government’s initial response to the mutiny was proportionate and saved lives by refusing army demands to use overwhelming force in a heavily populated area,” said Brad Adams, announcing the release of the report on Wednesday. “But since then it has essentially given a green light to the security forces to exact revenge through physical abuse and mass trials.”

The report describes “torture by security forces of people in custody on suspicion of planning the mutiny” with the “notorious RAB” allegedly one of the main perpetrators of abuses.

HRW says it interviewed 60 border guards facing trial, family members of the victims, prosecutors, defense lawyers and journalists in compiling details of the abuses described in the report.

Local human rights groups said they have made repeated and similar accusations in the past but that they were also dismissed by the government.

“No rights group writes a report out of their imagination,” said Nasiruddin Ahmed, director of Odhikar, a local rights group. “The [HRW] report is based on credible evidence and information, so it is true, I think.”

On Wednesday RAB’s director of communications and legal affairs Commander M Sohail dismissed the report as inaccurate while accusing HRW of following an agenda.

“[HRW] is trying to instigate militancy and criminal activities to deteriorate law and order in the country,” he said in a televised interview.

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