Police have been allegedly creating pressure on the relatives of the people who fell victim to enforced disappearance, questioning the relatives at homes and, in some cases, taking their signature on blank paper.
Rights organisation Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) and Mayer Daak, the platform of the families of enforced disappearance victims, issued separate statements in this regard on Thursday.
Prothom Alo spoke to five of the families. One family lives in Ahmednagar in the capital’s Basabo. The son Mahbub Hasan, who was president of Chttara Dal’s Sabujbag unit, has gone missing since 8 December 2018.
Shakil Khan, Mahbub Hasan's younger brother, told Prothom Alo the law enforcement personnel from Subajbagh police station first contacted him on 10 January. Even though he went to the police station with all documents, police came to their house. The police said it was urgent and they needed to talk to his father Abdul Jalil Khan since he is the one who filed the general diary following the disappearance of Mahbub Hasan.
The police forced their 75-year-old father to sign a statement. As Abdul Jalil refused to sign, 7 to 8 members of the police threatened to take him to the police station.
Abdul Jalil said he would not sign the statement and would write another one and give it to the police. At last, police left a little after 11:00pm, Shakil Khan added.
Officer-in-charge (OC) of Sabujbagh police station Muradul Islam said, “The allegations are not true. We just called the brother of Mahbub Hossain. Since the young man has been missing for long, we were just following up.”
It is learned that relatives of several victims signed the statement produced by the police out of fear and police are also frequenting the houses of several victims.
Baby Akhter is the wife of Tarikul Islam, a leader of Chattra Dal, who was picked up from Baunia embankment of the capital’s Pallabi about 10 years ago, by a group of people identifying themselves as police, Baby Akhter was called to police station on Wednesday night.
Baby Akhter told Prothom Alo, “Police want to know Tarikul's whereabouts from us. I told them, you know his whereabouts. What exactly do you want from us?”
She said law the enforcement personnel kept them waiting at the Pallabi police station from 8:00pm to 10:00pm. The police then came on Thursday morning and took copies of the general diary and the letters sent to various agencies and organisations including the detective branch, home ministry, National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh, after Tarikul Islam went missing.
Sanjida Islam, sister of the general secretary of BNP’s ward 38 (now ward 25) unit Sajedul Islam, said police also came to their house several times. "They talked to my mother extremely gently and informed us about the cases filed against my brother," she said.
Police are also knocking on the doors of enforced disappearance victims’ relatives outside Dhaka.
Taslima Akhter, wife of enforced disappearance victim Alamgir Hossain, from Noakhali, told Prothom Alo police talked to her after she was called to the police station.
The platform of the families of the people falling victim to enforced disappearance, Mayer Daak, condemned the police’s action and expressed anger over it.
A statement signed by Mayer Daak organiser Afroza Islam said that at the instructions of the government, police are frequently visiting the homes of the families of the victims of enforced disappearance, talking to the family members and taking them to the police station at night.
Police are forcing the victims’ relatives to sign papers stating that the person has gone missing and that the family hid the information.
Members of Mayer Daak, in the statement, also said family members of the victims of enforced disappearance are facing various problems and mental pressure. Since the victims were the sole earners of the family, these families now face financial hardship.
These families are terrified due to various measures being taken by the law enforcement agencies, including making them sign papers. They further said they have evidence proving that the government agencies are involved in the enforced disappearance.
Members of Mayer Daak urged the government to bring back the missing persons and stop this harassment.
In a separate statement, Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) said such conduct of law enforcement agencies is completely illegal. Such activities of law enforcement agencies are unacceptable. They are carrying out such activities instead of strengthening efforts to find out these victims of enforced disappearance and are blaming other people.
Families of the victims to enforced disappearance have long been waiting for the return of their missing relatives. Members of these families pass each moment in fear and insecurity. Such harassment devastates them further. Such activities amplifies the negligence of law enforcement agencies in finding the victims of enforced disappearance.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, assistant superintendent of police (media) at the police headquarters Md Kamruzzaman said law enforcement personnel are not supposed to be visiting the victims' families and making them sign on blank papers. He said he had not heard of police vising the relatives of the victims to enforced disappearance either.
In June last year, the UN human rights council sent a letter to the foreign ministry to learn about the 34 victims of enforced disappearance. Six month later, the United States imposed sanctions on seven former and incumbent officials of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) on 10 December last year on allegation of crossfire and disappearance.
The US treasury department, in a press release, said “NGOs have alleged that RAB and other Bangladeshi law enforcement are responsible for more than 600 disappearances since 2009, nearly 600 extrajudicial killings since 2018, and torture. Some reports suggest these incidents target opposition party members, journalists, and human rights activists,”