“Bangladesh: Find Abducted Witness”, Human Rights Watch
A guest blog by Sarah Bafadhel
Human Rights Watch have repeated calls for the Bangladesh authorities to “immediately explain what actions they have taken to locate Shukho Ranjan Bali, a witness who defense lawyers and witnesses say was abducted from the gates of the war crimes courthouse in Dhaka on November 5, 2012.” Human Rights Watch previously raised similar concerns regarding Bali’s disappearance over 2 months ago on 13 November 2012.
Bali was attending court on 5 November 2012 to testify on behalf of the Defence before he was allegedly abducted at the gates of the Tribunal. Witnesses to the event have stated that “a white van marked “Police”… allegedly drove up from inside the tribunal premises [whilst]…10 to 12 uniformed regular police were at the gates of the tribunal at the time… officers slapped Bali several times around the face and head, and forced him into the van. The van then drove off. Bali has not been seen or heard from since.”
Today, Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, highlighted the seriousness of this incident: “An allegation of an abduction is of the utmost seriousness since the person abducted is at great risk of being killed…The government should have immediately mobilized all available resources to find Bali, but has done nothing, making it appear at best indifferent to the welfare of one of its citizens.”
Following the abduction of Bali, the International Crimes Tribunal in Dhaka ordered the Prosecution, but not the police, to investigate the claim and accepted the Prosecution’s response a few hours later that the entire episode had been fabricated by the Defence. This was despite Justice Nizamul Huq, then the Chairman of the Trial Chamber sitting on the case, acknowledging to Human Rights Watch that “this was not the normal practice in Bangladesh and provided no legal or practical reason for this decision.”
Justice Huq has since resigned as Chairman of the International Crimes Tribunal following publication by The Economist of intercepted email and phone conversations showing that there was prohibited contact between the Chairman, members of the Prosecution, Government officials and external advisors.
The reaction by the former Chairman has prompted Human Rights Watch to conclude that the Tribunal’s efforts so far are woefully unsatisfactory: “Asking an interested party in a case, namely the prosecution, to inquire into the abduction of a hostile witness and then simply accepting its answer, is not a serious response,” Adams said. “We expect the government and its law enforcement agencies to mount an urgent, serious, and politically independent investigation to find Bali.
For the full statement and circumstances surrounding the abduction of Shukho Ranjan Bali, please click here
For Human Rights Watch’s previous statement, click here
Photocredit: HRW / 2010 Reuters