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Bangladesh: Concerned citizens seek probe into custodial deaths of BDR men

by Zakir Kibria, 29 March 2009

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NewAge, March 29, 2009

Inquiry into custodial deaths of BDR men demanded

Staff Correspondent

Rights activists, civil society members and political alliance on Saturday demanded independent inquiry into the custodial deaths of the Bangladesh Rifles members.

They also demanded trial of the BDR rebels in civilian court under general criminal laws instead of the Army Act to ensure a proper, fair and transparent trial.

Thirty human rights activists and eminent citizens and a political alliance Jatiya Mukti Council made the demand, issuing separate press releases.

They also raised question about involvement of United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation to probe into the BDR rebellion.

‘In the meantime, at least six BDR personnel have died in mysterious circumstances, causing public anxiety and concern regarding the investigation process,’ said the press release signed by thirty rights activists.

It also said, ‘Inhuman torture during interrogation on the BDR people was evidenced by the blood clots as mentioned in the inquest report of Lance Naik Mobarak Hossain who died on 22 March 2009.’

‘The use of torture in the interrogation process is not only a violation of human rights as Bangladesh is a state party to the Convention Against Torture, it is also both illegal and a punishable offence. We demand an independent inquiry into each of these deaths,’ they added.

The families of the BDR personnel are passing their days in a state of insecurity and uncertainty. The government must remember that it has duties towards them as well, especially as the investigation is ongoing, they observed.

Expressing concern over the government move to try the mutinous BDR soldiers under the Army Act in a military court, they said, ‘The act of rebellion was covered by the general amnesty, but murder, rape and looting are punishable offences. We, therefore, expect a proper investigation and a fair and transparent trial will take place under the ordinary criminal laws.’

However, as the BDR is under the Ministry of Home Affairs and not the Ministry of Defence, it is logical to expect that the trial of the BDR personnel will take place in an ordinary criminal court, they said, proposing formation of a Speedy Trial Court or a Special Tribunal to try the mutinous soldiers.

They criticised loose comments from different quarters on the nature of the incident, saying, ‘It can only deter the investigation from taking its own course and become an obstacle in the path of justice.’

Demanding inquiry into the deaths of the BDR soldiers who were kept under the government supervision, the Jatiya Mukti Council president, Badruddin Umar, and its secretary Faizul Hakim in their statements alleged, ‘Their deaths are due to torture under state custody, though the government claimed the deaths to be incidents of suicides or death after cardiac arrest.’

‘The people are undoubtedly saddened at the death of scores of army officers in the BDR carnage. But at the same, people have started to fell aggrieved at the torture on the BDR soldiers. The people would not accept any trial to be conducted stealthily under the army act. The people want those who were behind the killings to be brought to justice as well,’ the statement said.

The signatories of the press releases are women’s movement activists Shireen Huq, Shipra Deori, Maheen, Sultan Samia Afrin and Habibun Nessa, writer Rahnuma Ahmed and Tarek Omar Chowdhury, economist Professor Anu Mohammad, lawyer Dr Shahdeen Malik, NGO activist Khushi Kabir and Zakir Hossain, journalist Kamal Lohani, health rights activist Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, Professor Perween Hasan, Professor Firdous Azim, economist and writer Mohiuddin Ahmed, photographers Shahidul Alam and Nahar Ahmed, human rights activist Rina Roy, university teacher Lamia Karim, human rights activist Shaheen Anam, anthropologist Saydia Gulrukh, BanglaPraxis executive director Zakir Kibria, architect Bashirul Haq and development banker Mozammel Huq, anthropologists Sayeed Ferdous, Mirza Taslima Sultana, Sayema Khatun, Sadaf Noor and Nasrin Khandoker