According to Asian Human Rights Commission, 553 people have been victims of enforced disappearance in Bangladesh between 2009 and 2019. Some of them have returned, some were rescued from the other side of the border and some were found dead.

The victims’ families alleged that the law enforcement agencies were involved with the incidents. But the families of those who are still missing have been facing a different type of problem. They are not being able to withdraw money from banks or any other financial institutions and not being able to divide assets.

ASK chairperson ZI Khan Panna said enforced disappearance is one of the most heinous crimes. It’s extrajudicial like crossfire and custody deaths. The administration should clarify its position in this regard

In this context, like other countries, International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances is being observed in Bangladesh on Sunday. The day has been marked at the initiative of the United Nations since 2011. Earlier, on 21 December 2010, the UN General Assembly accepted the ‘International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance’ and announced 30 August as the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.

Prothom Alo on Saturday talked to families of six people who are still missing. They said the victims of the enforced disappearances were the main earning members of their families. Some of them have savings in banks, some have fixed deposits (FDR) and some have insurances. But the families of the victims could not get the money from banks or insurance companies. They have been facing legal complications over buying and selling properties and wealth distribution.

As per law, the court can give approval to withdraw money from banks and wealth distribution to the family of a person who remains missing for seven years at a stretch. But for that the family has to go through various legal procedures.

Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) chairperson and Supreme Court lawyer ZI Khan Panna told Prothom Alo that it is considered that a person would not return if he remains missing for seven years.

There are some problems in withdrawing money and distribution of property before that. The court, under special consideration, can give approval to withdraw a limited amount of money from banks. But the problem is the families do not go to the courts ,hoping that their dear ones would return one day.

The administration says the victims of enforced disappearance have gone into hiding. Have they stolen hundreds of millions of taka that they went into hiding? Why are the state agencies not finding them if they have been hiding somewhere?
ZI Khan Panna, ASK chairperson

Relatives of some of the missing people, who are missing for less than seven years, said it has become tough for them to follow the legal procedures while some of the families have been facing acute financial crisis.

In 2012, BNP leader Ilias Ali went missing along with his driver Ansar Ali. His vehicle was recovered from Mohakhali, Dhaka. In the last eight years, neither Ilias Ali nor Ansar Ali has returned. Ilias Ali’s family is not in financial crisis like that of Ansar Ali. His wife Mukta Begum now works at Sylhet City Corporation. Her 11-year-old girl goes to school. Mukta said Ansar would save Tk 2000 every month at a bank. She was the nominee but she is not being able to withdraw the money.

Ilias Ali’s son Abrar Ilias said his father’s bank accounts are frozen. His mother Tahsina Rushdi worked at Dhaka University. They have a home of their own. Their condition is stable now though they had to go through a crisis once. They want their father’s things to remain as they are, hoping that he would return a day.

On 27 November 2013, BNP leaders -- Saiful Islam (Hiru), former MP of Laksham, Cumilla and Humayun Kabir (Parvez) -- were victims of enforced disappearance. It is alleged that the law enforcement picked them up on their way from Laksham to Dhaka by an ambulance. Police submitted an investigation report, based on deposition of 19 including witnesses, to a court of senior judicial magistrate. The CID (Criminal Investigation Department) was given the responsibility of detailed investigation. But the investigation has not yet been completed, nor have the two returned.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Saiful Islam’s lawyer Badiul Alam (Sujon) said that Saiful had f flour and edible oil mills. He had taken loan from a bank. Since, seven years have gone by, it is assumed he would not return. But the process to move to the court with this claim is very complex. This includes paying taxes of all of his establishments and renewing trade licenses.

Shahnaz Akhter, wife of Humayun Kabir, the victim of enforced disappearance with Saiful, has been running her family with money from her husband’s joint business. She told Prothom Alo that there were two partners in her husband’s business. They told her that they have been gradually paying her the money her husband had invested. Besides, Humayun took money from 40 people for a residential project. Though they did not say anything for a long time, now they have been asking for their money.

Shahnaz Akhter said she is neither being able to sell her husband’s land nor repay the money. She could not even withdraw money from her husband’s account at a private bank.

ASK chairperson ZI Khan Panna said enforced disappearance is one of the most heinous crimes. It’s extrajudicial like crossfire and custody deaths. The administration should clarify its position on this regard.

He further said, “The administration says the victims of enforced disappearance have gone into hiding. Have they stolen hundreds of millions of taka that they went into hiding? Why are the state agencies not finding them if they have been hiding somewhere?”

* This report has been rewritten in English by Shameem Reza

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