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DB ‘responsible’ for a fourth of all disappearances

David Bergman

The Detective Branch of the police that Sukhranjan Bali claims was involved in his abduction from outside the International Crimes Tribunal in November 2012  is responsible for more than a quarter of all disappearances, according to rights organisation Odhikar that investigates disappearances.
According to Odhikar, 19 out of the 75 people who disappeared in incidents between 2009 and 2012 were initially taken away by men who claimed at the time of the abduction that they were from the Detective Branch.
The Rapid Action Battalion is said to have been responsible for most of the remaining abductions.
Data from the rights organisation Ain o Salish Kendra also suggest that the Detective Branch is second only to RAB in responsibility for the highest number of disappearances.
‘Sometimes there appears to be political interference in the work of the Detective Branch,’ said Nur Khan Liton, head of the investigation unit at Ain o Salish Kendra. ‘After a disappearance of a person, if we go to police station, they just say that they have no information about the disappeared person but then later we find that person arrested by the Detective Branch.’
‘There should be no
political interference and there needs to be transparency and accountability in the work of the Detective Branch,’ he said.
Jalal Ahmed Chowdhury, assistant inspector general (media) of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told New Age, ‘We don’t have evidence or information regarding [the alleged disappearances]. Normally the police only try to do what is regulated by law and if anything goes wrong and if there is any allegation by any person, we take legal action.’
In its recent report submitted to the Human Rights Council in February 2013 as part of the universal periodic review of Bangladesh’s human rights situation, the Bangladesh government stated, ‘In recent times, there has been a tendency to use the name of RAB and other [law enforcement agencies] in relation to cases of kidnapping/abduction.’
It goes on to state, ‘RAB has, so far, arrested more than 500 criminals disguised as [law enforcement agencies], including those involved in abduction.’
Ten days ago, New Age disclosed that Bali claimed in a statement that he had been abducted in November 2012 by plain clothes police officers from outside the International Crimes Tribunal and kept in an office which he thought was a Detective Branch office from the words on a stamp on the desk.
The police deny that any such abduction took place.
Since the Awami League government came to power in 2009, the number of disappearances has increased from 3 in 2009 to 18 in 2010, 30 in 2011 and 24 in 2012, according to Odhikar.
In the 19 cases where it is alleged that the Detective Branch was involved, eye-witnesses claim that that the men responsible for the initial detention, at some point at the time of the abduction, said that they were from the Detective Branch.
The Detective Branch is a specialised unit of the police which is part of every city and district police force.
In the early morning of July 6, 2011 fishmonger Habibur Rahman Hawladar Habib was taken in the early morning from in front of his house in West Betbunia in Bagherat. He was put into a motor boat and taken to the Morrelganj boat terminal, with his wife and other members of the family following in another boat.
According to Odhikar’s report, his wife Mahmuda Begum saw that five men had escorted her husband and put him into a black microbus. ‘When she asked them where her husband would be taken, one of them said that they were members of Bagerhat Detective Branch and they were taking Habib to the Baherhat DB office,’ the report states. Habibur has not been seen again.
Later that month, on July 31, 2011, three young men, Rajib Sardar, Jewel Sardar and Mizanur Hossain, two of them relatives and the other a friend, were abducted from Sharat Gupta Road in Dhaka.
Odhikar’s report quotes a man who was sitting at a shop on the street when he saw two young men being beaten by some plainclothesmen. When local people tried to intervene to stop the fighting, the plain clothesmen said that they were from the Detective Branch.
Five days later, bodies of the three men were found with their hands tied behind their backs with bullet wounds.
The day before these three bodies were found, businessman Tapan Das was also abducted from Dhaka, in Faridabad near the Gendaria police station = also apparently by the Detective Branch.
Tapan was travelling with Gobinda, his friend, on a rickshaw. According to Odhikar’s report some men stopped the rickshaw and after introducing themselves as Detective Branch officers put Tapan into a white microbus. The van drove off but then returned and Gobinda was told to get in. Both men were blindfolded and handcuffed.
After some distance, Gobinda was then told to get out of the van and when he got out he found himself near the Detective Branch office on Minto Road.
More recently, in the early morning of February 5, 2012, Al Mukaddas and Mohammad Waliullah both students of Islamic University in their early twenties were taken off a Hanif Enterprise bus on the Dhaka–Kushtia route. A supervisor for the company stated to Odhikar that the bus had started for Kushtia on time and about half an hour after midnight they had reached the Nabinagar area under the Savar police station.
‘The bus was stuck in a traffic congestion when a white microbus came and stopped to its left. Seven or eight persons got down from the microbus, some wearing jackets of the Detective Branch and rest wearing RAB uniforms. They identified themselves as members of RAB 4 and the Detective Branch,’ Odhikar’s report quotes the supervisor as saying.
‘Some of them got into the bus to search it. One of them ordered Walullah and Al Mukaddas, who were seated in seat C-1 and C-2 to get down and go with them. Sumon asked them where they were taking his passengers. A DB member replied that there were charges against the two and that they would be released after interrogation. They were put into the bus and Sumon was told to move on.’
Tej Thapa, South Asia researcher for the human rights organisation. Human Rights Watch, said ‘the organisation is aware of allegations of disappearances and unlawful killings at the hands of the Detective Branch [of the police] as well as other branches of the security forces.’
‘Although the last few years have seen a slight decrease in the numbers of such cases, we have seen no progress on accountability. Case after case remain unresolved, and the reign of impunity persists.’
In the section on ‘enforced disappearances’ in its 2013 annual report, Amnesty International stated that, ‘At least 10 people went missing throughout the year. In most cases the victims were never traced. Those bodies that were recovered bore injuries, some caused by beatings.’

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