(Washington D.C.) - The government of Bangladesh should immediately release Rafique Al Islam, a 44-year-old country representative of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), Human Rights Watch said today.

Mr. Al Islam was arrested on August 21 at his home in Cox’s Bazar by soldiers from the Rapid Action Battalion, who also seized equipment and documents. The authorities have neither charged him nor provided a basis for his arrest.

“It is an outrage that this respected member of the Nobel Peace Laureate ICBL has been arbitrarily arrested and detained,” said Stephen Goose, executive director of the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch and senior representative of the ICBL’s Coordinating Committee.

Mr. Al Islam is the ICBL’s Bangladesh country representative and he has provided the Bangladesh country update for the ICBL’s annual Landmine Monitor Report since 2000. Human Rights Watch serves as coordinator of the Landmine Monitor initiative and is a co-founder of the ICBL, which received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. Mr. Al Islam is also the country director of Nonviolence International, a non-governmental organization registered with the government of Bangladesh that coordinates a group of Bangladesh organizations that support the landmine ban.

“Mr. Al Islam is a well-known and well-respected member of our coalition,” said Mr. Goose. “His arrest and detention is very surprising and disturbing to us, especially given the positive leadership role that the government of Bangladesh has played recently in banning antipersonnel mines.”

Mr. Al Islam and other members of the ICBL have worked closely and cooperatively for many years with numerous Bangladesh diplomats and military officials on the landmine issue.

As one of the 143 states parties to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, Bangladesh currently serves as co-rapporteur of the treaty’s Standing Committee on Stockpile Destruction. Bangladesh ratified the Mine Ban Treaty on September 6, 2000.