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Call for inquiry into enforced disappearances in Bangladesh

Research notes that Islamic preachers are among those who have gone missing in the Muslim-majority country
Call for inquiry into enforced disappearances in Bangladesh

In this picture taken on Feb. 9, the mother of Sajedul Islam Suman, an official of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party who disappeared after allegedly being picked up by Rapid Action Battalion officers in December 2013, holds a photograph of her son. (Photo: AFP)

Published: March 23, 2022 03:26 AM GMT
Updated: March 23, 2022 04:56 AM GMT

A study on enforced disappearances in Bangladesh shows that one-third of victims are from capital Dhaka and 7 percent are Islamic preachers in the Muslim-majority South Asian nation.

These finding appeared in "Where are They? Enforced Disappearances in Bangladesh," a 37-page research report published this month by the Centre for Governance Studies (CGS), a Dhaka-based autonomous think tank.

Between 2019 and 2021, at least 71 people went missing, and 7 percent were individuals involved with Islamic preaching and clerical jobs, including one imam, two Islamic preachers, one madrasa teacher and a khatib who delivered sermons during Friday prayers.

Of the 71 enforced disappearances, 23 percent are still missing, 7 percent have been found dead, and 31 percent have been arrested, detained or jailed.

Data about the professions of 51 individuals gathered under this project show 15 percent of victims are politicians or businessmen and 11 percent students.

The police’s Rapid Action Battalion is alleged to have been involved in 40 percent of cases, followed by the Detective Branch at 31 percent.

“It is the responsibility of the government to find out who or what is causing these disappearances, otherwise the government will have to take responsibility”

According to the CGS report, a significant number of people have gone missing in Bangladesh in the last decade. Human rights organizations say 522 people went missing between 2009 and 2018.

"The government should set up an independent commission to investigate cases of enforced disappearances," Professor Ali Riaz, a professor of political science at Illinois State University, said in a virtual discussion on March 21, the Daily Star reported.

"It must immediately provide information on the victims to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced Disappearance and allow the group to visit Bangladesh."

The report noted that the number of disappearances increased during election years and it is feared that the number may increase in the run-up to the 2023 national elections.

“It is the responsibility of the government to find out who or what is causing these disappearances, otherwise the government will have to take responsibility,” said Nur Khan, secretary-general of Ain o Salish Kendra (Law and Arbitration Center), a Dhaka-based rights group.

"Preachers of Islam are disappearing in the predominantly Muslim nation, but we do not know why, so it is difficult for ordinary people to express how insecure they feel"

“Those who believe differently or make any critical remarks against the government or the government see them as a threat are being disappeared. Again, many people are  facing the threat of disappearance. In an independent civilized country, such incidents are totally unacceptable,” Khan told UCA News.

“We also do not know the reason why Islamic preachers are also disappearing. However, I see that they can influence the people and they have disappeared because of anti-government rhetoric.”

Holy Cross Father Liton Hubert Gomes, secretary of the Bangladeshi bishops' Justice and Peace Commission, said the government should take responsibility for all citizens of a state.

"When someone goes missing, the culprit has to be caught or the government has to take responsibility itself,” he said. 

“When the culprits are not brought to justice, many more get a chance to commit this kind of crime. Preachers of Islam are disappearing in the predominantly Muslim nation, but we do not know why, so it is difficult for ordinary people to express how insecure they feel. We want to get out of this situation quickly.” 

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