April 17, 2013

Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed
Prime Minister's Office
Old Sangsad Bhaban
Tejagaon
Dhaka-1215
Bangladesh

Re: Killing of Aminul Islam, Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity

Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing on behalf of Human Rights Watch to follow-up on our earlier letter to you on April 11, 2012 that raised our grave concerns about the killing of Aminul Islam of the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity (BCWS). Aminul’s body showed signs of torture under circumstances that raise concerns of involvement by Bangladeshi security forces.

A year after his death on April 5, 2012, there is little progress in the investigation to identify and prosecute those responsible. While we appreciated the government’s agreement to transfer the investigation of the case to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in line with the wishes of Aminul’s family, this move has apparently done little to advance work on the case. Human Rights Watch strongly urges your government to publicly report on the progress made by investigators to date into the disappearance, torture, and murder of Aminul Islam.

After Aminul Islam went missing on April 4, 2012, BCWS leaders called the Ashulia police station to check if he had been arrested. They made several phone calls to the police, who said they had no information about Islam.

The next day, April 5, Islam’s wife Hosne Ara and a senior BCWS organizer went to Ashulia police station to lodge a missing person report, but the police refused to register a case since it was not yet 24 hours since Islam had gone missing. BCWS also contacted various security agencies including the National Security Intelligence, Rapid Action Battalion, Industrial Police, Special Branch, Detective Branch, as well as several hospitals. On April 6 the Ashulia police station registered a missing person case for Islam.

On April 8 Hosne Ara called BCWS leaders to describe a photograph in a local newspaper; the newspaper report said the unidentified body had been discovered two days earlier in Tangail district, which is approximately 100 kilometers north from Baipail. After seeing the photo Islam’s wife and other family members said they were certain that it was Islam's body. When the family reached Tangail district, however, the body had already been buried since officials said it was unclaimed. However, the police showed them photographs, and the family positively identified the body as Islam’s. BCWS members told Human Rights Watch that the photographs of the body indicated signs of torture. His right leg had injuries under the knee, his toes had been smashed, both knees had coagulated blood, and there were several bruises on the body. Ghatail police chief Mahbubul Haq told journalists, "He [Islam] was murdered. His legs had severe torture marks including a hole made by a sharp object. All his toes were broken.”

Family members suspect that the members of the law enforcement agencies took him to an unknown location, severely tortured him, and after his death left his body at the Ghatail area under Tangail District.

In a related matter, we also write to follow up on our letters to you of May 3, 2011 and August 10, 2010. Human Rights Watch urges that you press prosecutorial authorities to review the charges lodged in 2010 against Babul Akhter and Kalpona Akhter given the sparseness of evidence provided to date. Finally, we urge your government to undertake to ensure the safety and security of both Babul Akhter and Kalpona Akhter.

At a time when Bangladesh is seeking to maintain its duty-free status with the US government for non-RMG exports, efforts by your Bangladesh government to address these concerns and demonstrate commitment to basic human rights and a socially-responsible garment industry is crucial. A first step would be to ensure that Aminul Islam’s murder is fully investigated and that the rights of worker advocates are not restricted.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter and we would appreciate learning the steps you take in this regard.

Sincerely yours,

Phil Robertson
Deputy Director, Asia Division

CC:
Minister Rajiuddin Ahmed Raju, Ministry of Labour and Employment
Minister Ghulam Mohammed Quader, Ministry of Commerce
Chairman Mizanur Rahman, Human Rights Commission
Executive Chairman Major Gen. K M Mominur Rahman, afwc, psc, Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (BEPZA)
 

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