It was a heart rending scene once again when over 30 families of abducted persons and victims of forced disappearances gathered together on 4 December in the capital city. Such tears were nothing new. Forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings began during the misrule of BNP and Jamaat. Unfortunately, even in the decade since they stepped down from power, the state machinery has become a tool of systemic killing and forced disappearances.
The victim families have demanded a resolution to the matter. Local and foreign human rights organisations have been continuously expressing their concern. But the government is taking no steps to ensure even a minimum level of accountability. Those involved in the state machinery have been granted unwritten impunity in this regard. This is extremely alarming, scary and is bound to become a Frankenstein.
Initially it was hardened criminals and such fugitives who were killed in an extrajudicial manner. But things changed and in recent years political opponents and personal enemies are falling victim to the state machinery. The seven-murder in Narayanganj is evidence of this.
Extrajudicial killing increased and so did protests from the local and foreign human rights organisations as well as the media. Forced disappearances suddenly increased. In the case of extrajudicial killings, the government agencies would issue a statement and families could take away the dead bodies of their loved ones. The trend of forced disappearances has changed the scenario. In the case of every killing there is a departmental inquiry, but the results of these inquiries are not made public.
The people now want an answer from the ruling Awami League about the promises they made in the 2008 election regarding forced disappearances and what is happening on the ground.
With the elections ahead, the main opposition claims they have huge public support and will win the polls if the voting is fair. They must not overlook the matter of forced disappearances. The victim families have asked the government to form a judicial inquiry committee to look into the issue. This appeal should not be ignored. It is hoped the government immediately forms an inquiry committee to find these missing persons.
All parties participating in the election must come forward with issue of forced disappearance and extrajudicial killing. They must clearly include this in their election manifestoes. If BNP apologies for Operation Clean Heart, this will put pressure on the government.
If initiative is taken to form a judicial committee and provide the victims’ families with due compensation, then this may help in making the state machinery more responsible.