EDITORIAL

Harrowing incidents of enforced disappearances must stop

Air was heavy with hushed sobs as the gloomy ambiance was sombre with signs of prolonged agony writ large on their countenances. Ceaseless streams of tears flowed from over scores of pairs of eyes of heartbroken wives, anguished sisters, bereaved mothers and other mournful family members, while little children accompanying them were looking hither and thither with vacant eyes. Teardrops of the grief-stricken near and dear ones of the vctims of enforced disappearances illustrated the profundity of their persistent intense grief. Some of the bereaved have been waiting for the last 3 years and some for 6 years or more.
Teardrops of the bereaved movingly denote overwhelming grief of despair after normal death of a dear one. Memories of loved ones persist which is not easy to reconcile. Bodily pain can be allayed and toned down but not mental trauma of sadness following a near and dear one’s death. But the dear ones of those who had been victims of enforced disappearance suffer a severe psychological trauma.
According to Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), at least 544 people have fallen victim to enforced disappearance from January 2010 to July 2018.Holding up photographs of victims of enforced disappearance, their relatives joined a programme at the Jatiya Press Club demanding safe return of the victims. About 70 family members of enforced disappearance victims came from different parts of the country to join the programme at the Jatiya Press Club. A number of them were themselves victims of enforced disappearance, but later returned home, organisers said. “Mayer Daak” (Mother’s Call), a platform of family members who lost their loved ones since 2012 to enforced disappearance, arranged the discussion. Many families allege law enforcers are behind their disappearance, but the government denies this. [Vide ‘I couldn’t find him anywhere’; Int’l Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances; Daily Star, 31 August 2019]
A heartbroken Nasrin Akhter spoke of the torment she has been enduring since her elder son Ishrak Ahmed went missing from the city’s Dhanmondi area about two years ago.Little Inam hardly has any memories of his father Ismail Hossain, missing since August 2011. Shakil, the younger brother of Chhatra Dal leader Mahbub Hasan Sujan of Basabo, said some people identifying themselves as law enforcers picked up Sujan from their neighbourhood on December 7, 2013. [Ibid]
Ever since her son Sazzad Hossain Sabuj, a Swechchhasebak League leader from Kushtia, went missing four years ago, Shahida Begum, 65, has knocked at every possible door—local police, RAB, political leaders, but to no purpose. But she still waits. Sazzad, 44, along with two others, was detained by law enforcers from a resort in Gazipur on August 21, 2015, and has never returned home, Shahida said on August 30, 2019 at a discussion marking the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. “I cannot answer when Sazzad’s little daughter ask me when her father will return…I don’t know how long we will have to wait for him,” she added. [Ibid]
Hasna Islam Raisa, daughter of BNP leader Sajedul Islam Sumon of Tejgaon, said she was in fourth grade when her father went missing in 2013. “Six years on, there is no trace of my father. I couldn’t find him anywhere,” said a weeping Raisa, now a grade nine student. Mahbub was among several dissent voices who were picked up ahead of the parliament election of 2014. They never came back home, Shakil said. [Ibid]
Young homeopath Moklesur Rahaman Johnny of Satkhira went out of his chamber to buy medicine for his father on August 4 night last year, but he never returned. He did not just disappear, according to his wife Jesmin Nahar as she had seen him in the lockup of the Satkhira Sadar Police Station the next morning when she had gone there to ask police to find her husband. Jesmin filed a writ petition with the High Court on March 6 prompting the HC to order in July the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Satkhira to investigate the case. The subsequent probe report mentioned recorded conversation between Jesmin and a police sub-inspector giving clear indications that Johnny was in police custody. The magistrate also talked to others who were in the police station’s lockup with Johnny and they said Johnny was indeed in custody.
Many family members of such disappearance victims pointed fingers at law enforcement agencies. But there had been cases in which the country’s perennially divisive politics and militancy were in play. There were cases of people going missing purposively too — done with the aim of achieving a particular thing. [Vide “Int’l Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances Day” Daily Star, 29 August 2017.]
Enforced disappearance is a violation not only of the rights of the direct victim, but also those of his or her relatives. That is why international law recognizes that, just like the disappeared persons, families are full victims too. Sudden separation, a lack of news, uncertainty and fear of reprisal makes the mourning of a loss impossible and causes indelible suffering. The Trial International says that it provides victims with full legal assistance if they submit their cases to international human rights bodies such as UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, UN Human Rights Committee, UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances etc.
To mark the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances this year the UN in its handout dated 30 August 2019, said that enforced disappearances can nowadays be perpetrated in complex situations of internal armed conflicts, especially as a means of Political repression of opponents. Of particular concern are: the ongoing harassment of human rights defenders, relatives of victims, witnesses and legal counsel dealing with cases of enforced disappearance; the use by States of counter-terrorist activities as an excuse for breaching their obligations; and the still widespread impunity for enforced disappearance.
The bottom line is: Harrowing incidents of enforced disappearances must stop.

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