A new report from Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights, better known as FIDH, said on Thursday that enforced disappearances in Bangladesh constitute crimes against humanity.
The platform called on the international community to take all necessary measures to ensure that Bangladesh government fulfils the right of the victims to truth, justice, and reparation.
Based on 30 interviews with victims of enforced disappearances that occurred between 2012 and 2018, their families, eyewitnesses, and information from other civil society organisations, the report, ‘Vanished Without a Trace: The Enforced Disappearance of Opposition and Dissent in Bangladesh,’ details how state actors, including military and police, worked in tandem to make people disappear.
‘Some returned home, alive but silenced, while some were found dead, supposedly killed in crossfire. Others never came back,’ the report said.
There is a clear pattern of Bangladeshi authorities using enforced disappearances to silence political dissidents, especially since 2011, the report found.
Documented cases of enforced disappearance in Bangladesh share key features and modus operandi, strongly suggesting that they are part of a concerted strategy executed by state actors.
‘Far from being spontaneous and arbitrary acts, these attacks are systematic and amount to a state policy. This, combined with the fact that most of the victims were targeted on political grounds, qualifies these acts as a crime against humanity,’ the report said.
FIDH secretary-general Debbie Stothard said, ‘The international community must recognise the seriousness of these crimes and intensify efforts to press the government of Bangladesh to put an end to them, surface the disappeared, and ensure victims obtain, truth, justice and reparation for the harm they suffered.’
FIDH’s findings are consistent with those of local civil society groups, which have documented more than 500 cases of enforced disappearances over the past decade.
There has been a marked increase in cases of enforced disappearances leading up to, and following, general election in 2014 and 2018, with a noticeable exacerbation in the framework of Bangladesh’s anti-terrorism policy.
Many of the victims, almost all of whom were men, were active in political parties that opposed the ruling Awami League.
The report said the Bangladesh government has intentionally refused to take steps to determine the fate or whereabouts of victims of enforced disappearances, condemn these crimes, and conduct investigations and prosecutions.