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Bangladesh: Bring Home the ‘Disappeared’

Investigate Enforced Disappearances; Hold Those Responsible to Account

(New York) – Bangladesh authorities should stop tormenting families and provide information on the whereabouts of their loved ones disappeared by security forces, Human Rights Watch said today, on International Human Rights Day.

Human Rights Watch has documented 86 cases of victims in Bangladesh who were forcibly disappeared since 2009 when the Sheikh Hasina-led government took office, and who remain missing. The Bangladesh government has repeatedly denied that security forces routinely commit enforced disappearances.

“The Bangladesh government should mark International Human Rights Day by welcoming an independent international investigation into the whereabouts of the victims of enforced disappearance who remain missing,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The only way to move forward is to finally bring closure to the families of victims and hold those responsible accountable.”

Senior UN officials, donors, and trade partners should step up measures to support holding senior members of Bangladesh security forces accountable and prevent future abuses. The government has demonstrated over the last decade that it has no interest in taking seriously concerns repeatedly expressed by United Nations experts and international partners.

The notoriously abusive Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) is responsible for more enforced disappearances in Bangladesh than any other unit, according to Bangladeshi human rights organizations. In October 2020, 10 US senators published a bipartisan letter calling for sanctions against top RAB officials for extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, and torture.

In August 2021 the Guernica 37 Chambers law offices made a formal submission to the British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office recommending sanctions for 15 current and former senior RAB officers for alleged involvement in human rights abuses and corrupt practices under the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020.

The United States, UK, Canada, the EU, and other governments with similar human rights sanctions regimes should impose targeted sanctions on top officials with responsibility for ongoing enforced disappearances and other grave abuses.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres should immediately ban RAB officers from participating in UN peacekeeping missions and ramp up screening of those deployed under the UN flag to ensure its human rights screening policy is being effectively applied in Bangladesh.

“Nobody believes the Bangladesh government’s lies about enforced disappearances by its security forces,” Adams said. “The question now is what donors and the UN are going to do about it.”

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