Families wait in hope

Want to know whereabouts of victims of enforced disappearance

Staff Correspondent
A boy looks pensive as his mother at a programme at the National Press Club in Dhaka on Saturday holds a picture of his father who went missing several years ago and still remains untraced when United Nations International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance was observed on the day. — Sony Ramany

A boy looks pensive as his mother at a programme at the National Press Club in Dhaka on Saturday holds a picture of his father who went missing several years ago and still remains untraced when United Nations International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance was observed on the day. — Sony Ramany

Members of at least 97 families whose relatives became victims of enforced disappearance and extra-judicial killings, on Saturday recalled how law enforcers had picked up their beloved ones and called upon the government to return them.
In a public programme, they also demanded justice in the cases of enforced disappearance and killing for which law enforcement agencies, particularly the elite Rapid Action Battalion, were blamed.
‘I handed over my son to RAB in good faith when they said they would return him after interrogation. Since then none of the agencies admitted to have arrested my son. I want my son back,’ said Ruhul Amin Chowdhury, a retired school teacher who lives in Shaheenbagh neighbourhood of the city.
Ruhul Amin’s son AM Adnan Chowdhury along with seven others was picked up by a group of people identifying themselves as RAB personnel on December 4 in 2013.
The eight people, including BNP ward 38 unit secretary general Sajedul Islam Sumon, were picked up from Basundhara residential area and Shaheenbagh in two microbuses on the same night.
The government should launch independent inquiries into the killings allegedly committed by RAB and other security agencies or the disappearance of many others after being picked up, the families demanded in the national conference at the National Press Club in the city.
The Moulik Odhikar Surakkha Committee, a platform of citizens campaigning for upholding human rights, organised the conference to mark the United Nations International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance, which is observed every August 30 across the globe.
In a somber atmosphere, representatives from 22 victim families narrated how their relatives were picked up allegedly by law enforcers.
People, including women who lost their beloved ones, could not hold tears while describing their miseries in absence of their guardians. Families of the victims of enforced disappearance attended the programme from different parts of the country carrying photographs of their beloved ones.
Shamsuddin, a retired school teacher, said, ‘My only appeal to you [law enforcers] is to show me the spot where the body of my son has been dumped. People usually offer fateha at the graveside of their relatives, but I am being deprived of the right.’ Shamsuddin’s son Nizam Uddin, a student of Tongi college, went missing on December 6, 2013 from the city’s Dakshin Khan neighbourhood.
Shahnaj Sultana, wife of BNP leader Humayun Kabir Parvez who disappeared after alleged RAB men picked him up along with two others, including fellow party man Saiful Islam Hiru, in Comilla on November 27, 2013, said she and her three sons woke up every morning in the hope that Humayun would return.
She said she was unable to withdraw money from the bank account of her husband as it had not yet been established whether Parvez was dead or alive.
‘How long we will wait for his return,’ Shahnaz asked and appealed to the prime minister to take steps to return her husband.
A good number of rights activities, jurists, academics and politicians attended the conference and expressed solidarity with the families of the victims.
‘We believe that such things [enforced disappearance] cannot be done without the state’s patronisation…We must go to the international criminal court [for justice] as we do not want such incidents to happen any more,’ Supreme Court lawyer Shahdeen Malik told the conference in his concluding remarks.
He said the rights campaigners would not leave the streets until justice was done about the cases of enforced disappearance and other forms of state repression, including killing in the name ‘gunfight’.
Without naming prime minister Sheikh Hasina, Shahdeen reminded that the present president of Kenya was facing trial in the International Criminal Court in Gevena for his role in the post-election violence.
According to reports of different rights groups, whereabouts of over 200 people, mostly political activists, who disappeared in last seven years, still remain unknown.
Asma Ahmed, daughter of slain physician Fayez Ahmed in Lakshmipur, described how lieutenant colonel Tareque Sayeed Mohammad, the then RAB-11 commanding officer, had led the killing of her father at their house on December 13, 2013 for giving treatment to the opposition activists after a confrontation on December 12 in Lakshmipur.
Mehdi Hasan from Comilla said that his brother Shahnur Alam, 43, a businessman, was picked up blindfolded by a RAB-14 team from their home at Bogdohor village under Nabinagar upazila in Brahmanbaria on April 30.
Shahnur was taken to the RAB-14’s crime prevention company camp in Bhairab of Kishoreganj. Mehdi claimed that his brother had told them in a hospital bed that the RAB men led by camp commander AZM Shakib Siddiqui had poured hot water into his mouth and pushed hot boiled eggs into his rectum and given him electric shock.
Addressing the conference, senior jurist Kamal Hossain, called for a national consensus to resist the crimes without partisan bias.
Ruhul Amin from Panchagarah said his son Imam Hasan was kidnapped from the capital’s Farmgate area in January 2011, but he was yet to know the whereabouts of his son even after approaching the RAB-2, local lawmaker and the home state minister.
Nazma Parveen, sister of Juba League leader Tushar Islam Titu who was picked up allegedly by RAB from Sirajganj on July 22, 2008, asked why they did not return the body if her brother had been killed for any offence.
Shammi Sultana, wife of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal 79 ward unit president Khaled Hasan Sohel who was picked up allegedly by DB from in front of jail gate on November 24, 2013, said she could not tell her son Ariyan whether his father was dead or alive.

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