The Human Rights Watch (HRW) yesterday urged Bangladesh authorities to heed international calls for transparent and independent investigations into enforced disappearances.
"The Bangladesh government has repeatedly failed to respond meaningfully to concerns raised by the UN, foreign governments, activists, and victims' families regarding grave allegations of torture, enforced disappearance, and extrajudicial killings in the country," the HRW said in a press release on Tuesday commemorating the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.
"The evidence of Bangladesh authorities' involvement in countless enforced disappearances is overwhelming," said HRW South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly, adding: "The Bangladesh government should stop feigning ignorance and work with the UN to provide urgent answers and effective accountability."
Bangladesh should mark the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances by taking the first step toward accountability, Ganguly said.
"In August 2021, Human Rights Watch published a report on enforced disappearances in Bangladesh alongside a webpage documenting 86 cases of apparently disappeared people. The Bangladesh government's only response was to deny the allegations. Since then, it has not provided updated information to Human Rights Watch on any of these cases," the rights organisation said.
Referring to the US sanctions against Bangladesh's Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and its top commanders for allegedly being implicated in abuses, particularly enforced disappearances, HRW said: "In response, Bangladesh authorities initiated a campaign of threats and intimidation against families of victims of enforced disappearances. This was presumably intended to contradict and undermine the families' allegations, although officials claimed they were only investigating the factual record."
"Other governments should consider joining the US sanctions against security force units and individuals to address the lack of accountability and prevent further abuses," HRW said.
The HRW also said that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, during her three-day visit to Bangladesh in August, called on the Bangladeshi government to establish a "specialised mechanism that works closely with victims, families and civil society to investigate allegations of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings."
HRW further said that there is a lack of serious progress from the authorities in clarifying the fate and whereabouts of disappeared persons in the country.