This report presents the testimony of Tasneem Khalil, recounting his torture at the hands of Bangladeshs military intelligence agency, the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI). To our knowledge, this is the most detailed public account of a case of torture in Bangladesh available anywhere. It demonstrates the nature of ongoing state-sponsored violence in Bangladesh, including the torture of critics of the current government.
Bangladesh has been under a state of emergency for more than a year, led by an interim government that was not elected and claims to be reform-minded. The current government, appointed in January 2007, replaced a previous caretaker government. It aims to remain in power pending national elections scheduled for 2008, though no specific date has been set yet.
Although it was installed by the army and Bangladesh has a long history of coups and abusive military regimes, the interim government was welcomed by many Bangladeshis and international observers when it was formed in January 2007 as a necessary antidote to massive corruption, widespread abuse of power, and a sense that the political process was failing to offer even the possibility of good governance.
What happened to Tasneem Khalil which, sadly, is not uncommon makes clear that when it comes to human rights a critical part of what was promised is not being fulfilled. After one year, the state of emergency not only remains in place but is being used to limit political party activity and restrict freedom of expression and assembly, with torture a frequent consequence for those who do not toe the line and end up in the custody of the security services.
Increased domestic and international pressure to end such abuses cannot await elections or formation of a new government. The fundamental rights set out in the Constitution should be immediately restored and respected. Ending illegal arrests and torture should not await an election. These should be a top priority of the interim government. Those members of the security forces who have been responsible for such egregious human rights violations should be brought to justice.