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

Amnesty International Report 2006 Bangladesh

A rising tide of violence, much of it perpetrated by Islamist groups, affected most parts of the country. The main targets of the violence were human rights defenders, lawyers, judges, opposition activists, members of minority communities and places of worship. Police abuses, including torture, continued. Violence against women was widespread. At least three people were executed.

Background
Escalating levels of violence, including several waves of bombings, combined with lack of appropriate action by the authorities pushed Bangladesh to the edge of a human rights crisis. The government – a four-party coalition led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) – at first blamed the main opposition Awami League before acknowledging that it faced growing Islamist militancy. In February it banned two Islamist groups – Jama’atul Mujahideen (Assembly of the Holy Warriors) Bangladesh and Jagrata Muslim Janata (Awakened Muslim Citizens) Bangladesh.

The World Bank cancelled funding for three development projects, blaming government corruption for its decision. For the fifth consecutive year, the non-governmental organization Transparency International named Bangladesh the world’s most corrupt country.

In August, the High Court declared the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution unlawful. The amendment had legitimized the imposition of martial law from 1975 to 1979. Following an appeal by the government, the Supreme Court suspended the High Court ruling.

Escalating violence
After a series of isolated bomb attacks from the beginning of the year, on 17 August hundreds of small bombs, many targeting government buildings, were detonated within a period of 30 minutes across the country. Two people were killed and hundreds injured. Jama’atul Mujahideen leaflets at the bomb sites called for the introduction of Islamic law in Bangladesh. Hundreds of people were arrested in the following weeks.

At least 25 people were killed and hundreds injured in similar attacks at other times in the year. On 29 November Bangladesh’s first suicide bombings marked a significant escalation in the violence and sparked widespread criticism of the ruling coalition for failing to prevent such attacks.

Targets of attacks and other abuses
Opposition members
Opposition activists faced attack by Islamists and members of the ruling BNP.

On 27 January a bomb killed five people, including former Finance Minister and leading Awami League politician Shah Abu Mohammad Shamsul Kibria, at an Awami League rally in Habiganj, north-east of the capital Dhaka. The family of the assassinated politician demanded an independent international investigation, but the government refused their demand.

Hundreds of Awami League supporters were reportedly injured on 15 August when various Awami League gatherings were attacked by BNP members.

Human rights defenders
Human rights defenders continued to face abuses by the police, army and other law enforcement personnel, including arbitrary arrest and torture. They were also harassed through the filing of unsubstantiated criminal accusations against them. Many were threatened by individuals or groups linked to armed criminal gangs or political parties. Some were physically attacked. Despite the attacks, human rights defenders remained extremely active.

Suresh Chandra Halder, former General Secretary of the Association for Village Advancement, a non-governmental organization in Faridpur, was arrested on 9 August, reportedly without a warrant. He remained in Faridpur jail for more than three months, and was denied medical treatment vital for his diabetes and other medical conditions. His harassment was believed to be linked to his attempts to expose corruption in the Association, which angered members of the organization linked to the government. On the orders of a court, he was released on 25 November.

Journalists
Hundreds of journalists were reportedly harassed, intimidated and attacked by state agents and non-state actors including Islamist groups.

On 5 February a bomb outside the press club in Khulna seriously injured Sheikh Belaluddin Ahmed, the local bureau chief of the daily Dainik Sangram. He died several days later.

A national conference to discuss repression of journalists planned for 11 November in Dhaka by the Federal Union of Journalists was reportedly stopped by the government two days before it was due to start.

Lawyers and judges
Islamist groups attacked courts, judges and lawyers, apparently because they practised non-Islamic law.

On 3 October, two people were killed when bombs exploded in court buildings in several places around the country. Jama’atul Mujahideen appeared to have carried out the attacks. Two judges were killed on 14 November when a bomb was thrown at their car in Jhalakathi.

Nine people, including two lawyers, were killed on 29 November by suicide bombers outside courts in Chittagong and Gazipur.

Attacks on minority communitiesAttacks on minorities, including Hindus, Christians, Ahmadis and tribal people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts and elsewhere were carried out with apparent impunity.

On 24 July, dozens of tribal villagers in the Chittagong Hill Tracts were severely beaten and otherwise abused, reportedly by soldiers, at Fakinala Nee Aung Karbari Para, Manikchari sub-district, in Khagrachari.

A hate campaign against members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat continued and involved attacks on Ahmadi places of worship. In one attack in April, more than 50 men, women and children were reportedly injured at Sundarban Bazar in Jotindryanagar by the International Khatme Nabuwat Movement Bangladesh, an Islamist group.

In October, Hindu temples and houses were attacked and set on fire in Rangpur. Five people were reported to have been seriously injured.

Abuses by police
Shankar Sen, aged 27, reportedly died on 14 August allegedly after being tortured by police at Ramna police station. He had been arrested six days earlier on suspicion of stealing a mobile phone. Relatives said Shankar Sen had mental health problems.

On 24 August, Mokaddes Hossain, General Secretary of the Tetulbaria union of the Jubo League, died allegedly as a result of torture by police. He was arrested on his way home from attending an Awami League event.

Violence against women
According to media reports, in the first quarter of the year alone, more than 1,900 women were allegedly subjected to violence, over 200 were killed allegedly following rape, over 300 women were allegedly abused for not meeting their husbands’ dowry demands and over 100 were trafficked. Acid Survivors Foundation said that at least 166 incidents of acid attacks involving 210 victims – 138 of whom were women – took place in the first nine months of the year. Social stigma, police refusal to act on most reports of violence against women, and a lack of legal and community support for the victims prevented many of them from seeking justice. However, almost all reports of acid attacks were believed to have been investigated by the police.

Death penalty
At least 217 men and one woman were sentenced to death, and at least three men were executed by hanging.

AI country visits
AI delegates visited Bangladesh in February/March to research human rights and to help stage a workshop for human rights defenders.

Link: http://web.amnesty.org/report2006/bgd-summary-eng#top

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Chittagong Hill Tracts: India Urged to Raise Minority Issues

20-03-2006

Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) urged the government of India to raise systematic persecution of the minorities and indigenous tribal peoples in the discussion with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Khaleda Zia who is on a three day visit to India.

The minority Hindus continue to be targeted as enemies under the Vested Properties Act. Prime Minister Khaleda Zia has shelved the Vested Properties Return Act brought by the Awami League government in 2001 and the lands and properties of Hindus continue to be seized by the government and the Bangladesh National Party leaders. The seized properties are also being sold by the authorities in clear violation of the law.

"The issue of illegal migration from Bangladesh cannot be addressed without addressing the Vested Properties Act as thousands of minority Hindus are being forced each year to leave Bangladesh . Millions of Hindus have fled to India in the last 20 years." - stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights.

Apart from serious and systematic human rights violations, the security forces and the illegal settlers from the plain districts have illegally seized lands belonging to indigenous Jumma peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

In 2005, the government has acquired 9,650 acres of land in Bandarban, affecting about 1,000 indigenous families; 11,446.24 acres of land in Sualok Union of Bandarban, uprooting 400 indigenous families; and 450 acres of land in Pujgang under Panchari Thana of Khagrachari district, among others, for military purposes. The government had also issued notices for acquisition of 45 acres of land in Babuchara under Dighinala Thana in Khagrachari district, affecting at least 74 Jumma families in three villages; about 183 acres of land in Balaghata in Bandarban district; 19,000 acres of land in Bandarban; 26,000 acres of land in Bandarban for military purposes.

The government reportedly acquired a total of 5,600 acres of land in Chimbuk of Bandarban for construction of an Eco Park.

The government also started a process to acquire 5,500 acres of land in Sangu Mouza of Bandarban district for animal sanctuary; and 40,071 acres of land in Lama, Nikkyong Cahri , Alikadam and Bandarban Sadar for rubber and tea plantation by private individuals.

"The government of India has the responsibility to raise these issues as it directly affects the security issues which it has been seeking to address" - stated ACHR. #

Source: Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR)