Article published in New Age on 4 December 2014
This is the last of the series of articles published in New Age investigating the disappearances of 19 opposition activists that took place in or around Dhaka in a two week period in Nov/Dec 2013. To see the full series, go here------------------------------------------------------------
I will investigate allegation about 19 disappearances: law minister
David Bergman and Muktadir Rashid
The Bangladesh law minister has told New Age he will take responsibility to investigate what happened to the 19 Dhaka-based opposition activists who were, according to eye-witnesses, abducted by law enforcing agencies this time last year.
‘Whatever the truth is, I will find it,’ he said.
In the last week, New Age reported the details of the abductions of the 19 men, most members or activists of the student wing of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which had taken place in eight separate incidents over the course of two weeks in and around Dhaka, including Shahbagh, Bashundara, Shahinbagh, Mollartek and Mirpur.
Anisul Huq said that this was the first time that these 19 incidents had been brought to his attention.
‘If you give me time, I will go back … I will look it up,’ he said. ‘If there has been any such disappearance where any of the law enforcing agencies have been involved, I can assure you I will try and identify the person who is involved and he will be brought to justice. That much I can do.’
‘Let me go back, let me check it out and let me come back to you. I will do that,’ he added.
In the interview conducted at his Gulshan office, Anisul, one of the country’s senior criminal lawyers, said people should be assured that whoever was responsible would be brought to book.
‘Be assured of one thing,’ he said, ‘if there is any wrongdoing, whoever it is, if it is someone from opposition who has done it to put responsibility on law enforcing agencies or [if it is] someone inside the law enforcing agencies who has done it, we will make an all-out effort to bring them to justice, as we will not allow these kinds of things to happen in this country. We will not.’
The law minister said he was very serious about looking into these cases, claiming that his government has established rule of law.
‘It is this government which has … to a great extent established rule of law so this kind of incident [that] you are now bringing to my notice, this kind of incident will not be allowed in this country. No we will not do that. So that is why I am very serious about it.’
‘I will go back, though it is not my ministry which should be concerned, it should be the home ministry. But even then, because this government believes in accountability and transparency, because this government wants to take the responsibility of the wellbeing of every citizen, I am going to go back, I am going to do my homework and whatever is the truth I will find it.’
When asked what would happen if it was found that responsibility went beyond law enforcing agencies, he said, ‘I don’t want to assume anything right now, let me do my homework.’
He said that he would get back to New Age once he had undertaken his inquiries.
He noted that when he first became law minister, there was a newspaper report which had claimed that 261 persons had disappeared, including 25 people from two specific districts, and that he had asked the law enforcing authorities for a report.
‘I found out to my utter surprise that the report was fabricated and there were only two persons who had disappeared from those two districts. … I was surprised, extremely surprised.’
He said all the agencies, including Detective Branch, Rapid Action Battalion and CID had told him that the newspaper reporters had never asked them any questions.
In the nine months between January and September 2014, newspapers reports compiled by the human rights organisation, Ain-o-Salish Kendra, suggest that there have been 82 forced disappearances involving law enforcement bodies.