Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Urgent Appeal for victim Santa

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME
23 May 2006

[RE: UP-101-2006: BANGLADESH: Judicial Probe Commission ignores specific complaint against the Mohammadpur police; UP-096-2006: BANGLADESH: Court orders supplementary investigation following disputed Judicial Probe Commission report; UP-083-2006: BANGLADESH: Police defy High Court order by continuing to make threats; UP-062-2006: BANGLADESH: Harassment and threats continue towards victim despite a High Court ruling ordering the alleged perpetrators to stop; UP-058-2006: BANGLADESH: Police seriously intimidate and threaten victim, her husband and her witnesses; UA-105-2006: BANGLADESH: Pregnant woman tortured by police in Dhaka]
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BANGLADESH:
Court dismisses charges against alleged perpetrators
Torture; arbitrary arrest; harassment; lack of witness protection; intimidation; threats; denial of trial; collapse of rule of law

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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information regarding the case of Mrs. Shahin Sultana Santa, a woman who we reported was tortured by the police in Dhaka (please see UA-105-2006). We have now learned that the Fourth Special Tribunal for Prevention of Women and Children Repression of Dhaka has dismissed Santa's case against the policemen, who allegedly tortured her. The judge of the court, Mrs. Kaniz Akhter Nasrina Khanam, said in her order that the allegation of sexual harassment and molestation of the victim by the alleged perpetrators was not proven in the probe report conducted by the Judicial Probe Commission comprising of Mr. Shafik Anwar. However, the probe report did acknowledge torture, and yet the Magistrate saw fit to throw all charges against Santa out.

On 21 May 2006, the Magistrate of the Fourth Special Tribunal for Women and Children Repression of Dhaka, Mrs. Kaniz Akhter Nasirina Khanam, dismissed the charges filed by Santa against the alleged perpetrators, who are officials of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP). The Magistrate said in her order that it was not proved in the investigation that the alleged perpetrators attempted with a view to molest and sexually harass Santa. The judge did not refer to the police brutality on Santa, which was already proved by the Judicial Probe Commission headed by Magistrate, Mr. Shafik Anwar.

The Judicial Probe Commission expressed its negative opinion in the probe report regarding the charges against the alleged perpetrators. The probe commission claimed that the charges of sexual harassment and molestation of Santa were not proved, according to Section 10 of the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act - 2000. Under this act, the police’s actions would have had to have been deemed deliberate, but the Probe Commission and the Magistrate believed that they were not. For this reason, the charges of sexual harassment and molestation were withdrawn. Absurdly, rather than just dismissing the charges of sexual harassment and molestation, the Magistrate dismissed all charges against the alleged perpetrators, including torture.

Further, the probe commission did state that the police, believing the complainant to be a political picketer, applied excessive power which was unnecessary. It said that had Santa been declared a political picketer, then she should have been arrested and produce her in Court. The police, however, did not do this and therefore their conduct in this case is a cognisable offence falling under the Penal Code.

In addition to the charges being dismissed, during the court hearing, at around 12pm, Santa received a call on her mobile phone and the caller asked her to leave the court. The caller also rebuked her for waiting for the Court's order.

In a further attempt to harass and intimidate Santa, in early May unidentified persons left one revolver, two pipe-guns and eight rounds of bullets in an abandoned place owned by Santa and her husband, Advocate Mr. Atiur Rahman, at Shibpur village under Uzirpur police station in Barisal district. On May 11, the Uzirpur police recovered the arms from the place and proceeded to file a case against Santa and her husband, who live in Dhaka and were not aware of the incident. During the period of recovering the arms from Santa's village a police team were seen moving around her house in Dhaka.

In another incident, this time on May 5, Santa's husband was going back home from his law chamber in the Shegun Bagicha area to Mohammadpur in the city of Dhaka, when he was attacked by a group of eight persons at the Dhaka University. The persons snatched his mobile phone and Taka 8,000/-. The persons asked Mr. Atiur's name many times.

Santa's family believes that these two incidents were initiated by the Deputy Commissioner of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), Mr. Kohinoor Mian, who is one of the key perpetrators, and his colleagues who were involved in the brutality on her. Although Santa and her family are in grave danger they want to continue in their fight for justice against the alleged perpetrators. Santa is, however, unsure of which direction to go in achieving this and in ensuring her and her husband's security.

It is widely believed in Bangladesh that the alleged perpetrators of Santa's case are well graced by the government. The government is fully supporting the alleged perpetrators instead of upholding the rule of law in the country. The denial of a trial and the attempt to ensure impunity to the alleged perpetrators is highly unlawful and goes against the number of voluntary pledges to the international community by the Bangladesh government during the election of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations where they have been elected for three years.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write letters to the persons listed below urging them to intervene immediately so that the government ensures a fair trial to establish justice and rule of law. Please insist that the police stop their harassment of the victim and witnesses in accordance with the ruling of the High Court, and stop tampering with the evidence. Please also urge the authorities to ensure appropriate security to the victim and her family and also to the witnesses in her case. Please ask that a speedy trial be ensured in this case so that justice can prevail and those responsible can be held to account for the heinous crimes they have committed. Please also ask that appropriate compensation be paid to the victim.

Suggested letter:
Dear _______________,

BANGLADESH: Court dismisses charges against alleged perpetrators

Name of victim:
1. Mrs. Shahin Sultana Santa (34), resident of 7/A (3rd Floor), Road number 10, Mohammadia Housing Society under Mohammadpur police station in Dhaka
2. Mr. Atiur Rahman (Santa’s husband)
3. Witnesses in Santa’s cases
4. Dr. Belal Hossain (Santa’s doctor)

Name of alleged perpetrators:
1. Mr. Mazharul Haque, Deputy Commissioner of Police (South Zone), Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP)
2. Mr. Kohinur Mian, Deputy Commissioner of Police (West Zone), Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP)
3. Mr. Ruhul Amin, Police Constable of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP)
4. Mr. Kawsar Ahmed Haidari, Additional Special Superintendent of Police of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Dhaka.
5. Mr. Syed Nazrul Islam, Sub Inspector, and Duty Officer on 13 March 2006 evening at around 9:00 pm, of the Mohammadpur Police Station, Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP)
6. Mr. Iqbal Hossain, Sub Inspector, and Duty Officer on 17 March 2006 evening at around 9:00 pm, of the Mohammadpur Police Station, Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP)
7. Mr. Jahangir Hossain, Sub Inspector, and Duty Officer on 18 March 2006 evening at around 9:00 pm, of the Mohammadpur Police Station, Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP)
8. Mr. Shahanur Khan, Inspector and Officer-in-Charge (OC) of the Mohammadpur Police Station of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP)
9. Mr. Gias Uddin Ahmed, Sub Inspector, and Second Officer, of the Mohammadpur Police Station, Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP)
10. Around 20 to 25 police personnel of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP)

Date of original incident: 12 March 2006
Place of original incident: Mirpur Road, in between Manik Mian Avenue and Road number 27 of Dhanmondi in Dhaka

I am writing to express my grave concern at the ongoing and inexcusable treatment of a victim of torture, who is now being denied the right to a fair trial in her case.

According to the latest information I have received, on 21 May 2006 the Magistrate of the Fourth Special Tribunal for Women and Children Repression of Dhaka, Mrs. Kaniz Akhter Nasirina Khanam, dismissed charges against the alleged perpetrators for the torture inflicted on Santa. The Magistrate said in her order that it was not proved in the investigation that the alleged perpetrators attempted with a view to molest and sexually harass Santa. The judge did not refer to the police brutality on Santa, which was already proved by the Judicial Probe Commission headed by Magistrate, Mr. Shafik Anwar. Absurdly, rather than just dismissing the charges of sexual harassment and molestation, the Magistrate dismissed all charges against the alleged perpetrators, including torture—this despite the probe report finding grounds for the torture charges.

I have also been informed that incidents of intimidation and harassment continue against Santa and her family. In early May unidentified persons left one revolver, two pipe-guns and eight rounds of bullets in an abandoned place owned by Santa and her husband, Advocate Mr. Atiur Rahman, at Shibpur village under Uzirpur police station in Barisal district. On May 11, the Uzirpur police recovered the arms from the place and proceeded to file a case against Santa and her husband, who live in Dhaka and were not aware of the incident. During the period of recovering the arms from Santa's village a police team were seen moving around her house in Dhaka.

In another incident, on May 5, at around 9:30 pm, Santa's husband was going back home from his law chamber in the Shegun Bagicha area to Mohammadpur in the city of Dhaka when he was attacked by a group of eight persons at the Dhaka University. The persons snatched his mobile phone and Taka 8,000/-. The persons asked Mr. Atiur's name many times.

I have also been informed that Santa has continued to receive threats over the telephone by an unidentified person. In fact during the court hearing where the charges were dismissed, Santa received such a call telling her to leave the court and not to wait for the Court’s order.

The charges Santa filed against her perpetrators were dismissed purely because of the flawed investigation into her case, the lack of commitment of government authorities to ensure justice to the victim, and the established trend of abusing their power by the police and other government officials. For this reason the charges should never have been withdrawn, and should in fact be laid again so that the matter can be dealt with according to the law.

The denial of a fair trial and the overall treatment of Santa comes at a time when Bangladesh has only just recently voluntarily pledged to uphold the rule of law in its candidacy to the new Human Rights Council of the United Nations. Partly based on these pledges, Bangladesh was accepted into the new Council as a member for three years. With this in mind, I ask that the government stop protecting the alleged perpetrators of the many crimes committed in this case and ensure that justice is sought for all.

I trust that you will take immediate action in this case.

Yours sincerely

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
1. Mrs. Begum Khaleda Zia
Prime Minister
Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh
Office of the Prime Minister
Old Parliament House
Tejgaon Dhaka
BANGLADESH
Tel: +880 2 8828160-79, 9888677
Fax: +880 2 8113244 or 3243 or 1015 or 1490
E-mail: pm@pmobd.org or psecretary@pmobd.org (to the Secretary)

2. Mr. Sayed J. R. Mudassir Husain
Chief Justice
Supreme Court of Bangladesh
Supreme Court Building
Ramna, Dhaka-1000
BANGLADESH
Tel: +88-02-9562792
Fax: +88-02-9565058

3. Mr. A.J. Mohammad Ali
Attorney General of Bangladesh
Office of the Attorney General
Supreme Court Building
Ramna, Dhaka-1000
BANGLADESH
Tel: +88-02-9562868
Fax: +88-02-9561568

4. Mr. Md. Lutfozzaman Babor MP
State Minister Ministry of Home Affairs
Government of the Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh
Bangladesh Secretariat
Dhaka-1000
BANGLADESH
Tel: +88-02-7169069 (O)/ +88-02-8359000 (R)
Fax: +88-02-7160405/ +88-02-7164788 (O)

5. Mr. Abdul Quayum
Inspector General of Police (IGP)
Bangladesh Police
Police Headquarters’
Fulbaria, Dhaka-1000
BANGLADESH
Tel: +88-02-9562054(O)/ +88-02-7176451/ +88-02-7176677
Fax: +88-02-9563362 (O)/ +88-02-9563363

6. Mr. SM Mizanur Rahman
Commissioner
Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP)
The DMP Headquarters
1, Shaheed Captain Monsur Ali Road
Ramna, Dhaka-1000
BANGLADESH
Tel: +88-02-8322746 (O)/ +88-02- 8316248
Fax: +88-02-8322746 (O)

7. Mr. Jalal Ahmed
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate
Metropolitan Magistrate Court of Dhaka
Dhaka-1100
BANGLADESH
Tel: +88 02 7173707 (O)
Fax: +88 02 7114470 (On request to the Office of ADC Prosecution)

8. Prof. Manfred Nowak
Special Rapporteur on the Question of Torture
Attn: Mr. Safir Syed
C/o OHCHR-UNOG
1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9230
Fax: +41 22 9179016 (general)
E-mail: ssyed@ohchr.org

9. Ms. Yakin Erturk
Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women
c/o Ms. Vernonica Birga
Room 3-042
c/o OHCHR-UNOG
1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9615
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (Attn: Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women)
Email: lohanlon@ohchr.org

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission
19/F, Go-Up Commercial Building,
998 Canton Road, Kowloon, Hongkong S.A.R.
Tel: +(852) - 2698-6339
Fax: +(852) - 2698-6367
email ahrchk@ahrchk.org