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BANGLADESH: State offers citizens insanity

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-STM-218-2012
November 2, 2012
A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission
BANGLADESH: State offers citizens insanity instead of justice
Mr. Ashok Kumar Bishwas, Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Jhalokathi District, has reportedly offered a proposal to the family of college student Limon Hossain, who, courtesy the point blank shooting by Rapid Actions Battalion (RAB) personnel, is a disabled man today.

According to a report, published by the Prothom Alo, a vernacular national daily, the DC has asked Limon's mother, Mrs. Henowara Begum, to withdraw her 'no confidence petition' against the police investigation report. The investigation report had claimed that her case against the officers of the RAB, for shooting Limon's leg and causing permanent disability, was "not proved during investigation."

Mrs. Henowara is expected to withdraw the whole case, which she filed against the perpetrators of the RAB. In exchange, the DC, the top administrative officer in districts of Bangladesh, someone having ex-officio authority of a District Magistrate, will make an application to the Ministry of Home Affairs with suggestions that the government should withdraw the two fabricated cases registered by the RAB officers against her son Limon.

This proposal was offered to Limon and his mother on October 24, 2012, which the national daily was able to publish on Tuesday, October 31, in its online edition.

Mrs. Henowara Begum has been cited in the news report stating that "the official vehicle of the UNO [Upazila Nirbahi Officer, a top administrative officer at the sub-district level] of Kawkhali upazila suddenly came to our rented house at 11 am on Wednesday [24 October]. The driver told us that the UNO wanted to talk to us. Then, we were taken to the official residence of the UNO, who talked to us for sometime."

She is further reported to have said, "We had no idea that the DC will be there! He came there and wanted to hear the account from Limon. After hearing everything he told us, 'I can recommend the Ministry of Home Affairs to withdraw the two cases filed by the RAB against Limon, if you apply . Provided that you have to withdraw your 'no confidence petition' that you submitted to the Court against the police investigation report'."

Mrs. Henowara told the journalists, "Limon was shot by the RAB more than one and half years ago [23 March 2011]. Not a single public official of any level had come to see our plight during this whole period. I don't properly understand why the DC was caring about us after so long time?"

Today, November 2, the New Age reports that Limon Hossain received another call from an unidentified officer of the RAB asking him withdraw his case against the members of the paramilitary force. A man, without disclosing his name and rank, made the phone call at 8 pm on Wednesday, October 31, from the number +8801713 374473. The caller reportedly talked to Limon and his mother Mrs. Henowara Begum wanting to know from both persons about their decision with regard to the proposal offered by the DC of Jhalokathi a week ago.

The Asian Human Rights Commission has checked that the cell phone number, which was used to make phone call to Limon Hossain on October 31st, is one of the official cell phones used by Lt. Col. Ziaul Ahsan, Director of RAB's Intelligence Wing at its headquarters.

The proposal of withdrawing the case against state sponsored perpetrators who have committed gross human rights violations, in exchange for getting the fabricated cases lodged by state agents withdrawn in Bangladesh, is not a surprise at all. This is but one of the methods applied routinely by the state agents of Bangladesh to ensure impunity to the "licensed criminals" of the state. The proposal of the DC, and the enquiry by the RAB intelligence officer about the same, establishes the fact that this proposal is an officially organised attempt to show the audience at home and abroad that "the matter is settled between the contesting parties."

After nineteen month's struggle for justice, the victim and his family, who went through countless forms of harassment, are literally being dragged to a tiny corner of a battle field, where all odds are stacked against them, without any room for them to fight for justice.

For the entire period, the state's own gunmen continuously invested their muscle power and money to brand Limon a criminal in public. A number of human rights organisations, media and civil society groups stood beside Limon, who has nationally been proven as an innocent college student, and this has countered state sponsored efforts to brand him a criminal.

Bangladesh's Constitution, in Article 31, enshrines the right to protection of law to all citizens. The Article reads:
"To enjoy the protection of the law, and to be treated in accordance with law, and only in accordance with law, is the inalienable right of every citizen, wherever he may be, and of every other person for the time being within Bangladesh, and in particular no action detrimental to the life, liberty, body, reputation or property of any person shall be taken except in accordance with law."
Moreover, as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of the United Nations, Bangladesh has an obligation to ensure justice to the victims of human rights abuses through competent judicial, administrative, or legislative authorities. According to Article 2 of the ICCPR,
1. Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

2. Where not already provided for by existing legislative or other measures, each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to take the necessary steps, in accordance with its constitutional processes and with the provisions of the present Covenant, to adopt such laws or other measures as may be necessary to give effect to the rights recognized in the present Covenant.

3. Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes:

(a) To ensure that any person whose rights or freedoms as herein recognized are violated shall have an effective remedy, notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity;

(b) To ensure that any person claiming such a remedy shall have his right thereto determined by competent judicial, administrative or legislative authorities, or by any other competent authority provided for by the legal system of the State, and to develop the possibilities of judicial remedy;

(c) To ensure that the competent authorities shall enforce such remedies when granted."
The authorities of Bangladesh are shameless in their naked attempt to shut the doors of justice in the disguise of this quid pro quo proposal, which is nothing but a threat to the victim and his family, given the current context of the country. The state machinery has reduced the provisions of fundamental constitutional rights, and universally recognised rights enshrined in the international laws, to a tasteless joke, in order to protect the powerful minority vested interests and to deprive millions of ordinary citizens. The recent organised attempt of the authorities in Limon's case once again exposes the kind of insanity-ridden mindset the state machineries possesses. The state has clarified its position: only insanity can be offered, not justice to citizens.

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