Climate of impunity continues in Bangladesh: AFAD

It’s been three years after the brutal torture and murder of Aminul Islam and the climate of impunity continues in Bangladesh.

The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) deeply condemns the murder of Aminul Islam, a human rights defender who helped garment factory workers demand their basic human rights and challenge the unjust system.

aminulAbducted, Aminul Islam was brutally tortured and murdered as a direct result of his work to improve the working conditions for Bangladeshi garment workers. Apparently, this form of human rights violation sent a direct clear message to those working in the industry of what their future would hold if they attempt to exercise their labor rights and make demands for humane and better working conditions.

The active involvement of Mr. Islam in seeking justice for the workers of the garments industry in Bangladesh apparently motivated the killing.

Aminul Islam had been disappeared on in the morning of 4th April 2012 and his mutilated dead body was found by members of the Tangail Police on 5th April next to a road near Ghatail, sixty-one miles from the capital, Dhaka. He was last seen alive in Ashulia, the center of the garment industry near Dhaka. Apparently, Aminul Islam was severely tortured before he was killed.

His exhumed body bore evidence of torture: his knees smashed and toes broken, both knees marked with coagulated blood. Many other beaten spots were noticed over his body. Someone had cut or drilled a hole beneath his right knee. A medical official concluded that Aminul Islam bled to death. It was confirmed in a police inquest report that he was brutally tortured before he died.

The enforced disappearance, torture, and extrajudicial killing of Aminul Islam, are not an isolated case in Bangladesh. In the absence of a progress investigation, his murder has created an apparent, increasing atmosphere of fear of escalating attack on workers and human rights defenders in Bangladesh.

As a member of the United Nations, the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh should adhere to the principles and provisions of the Convention Against

Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which entered into force on 26th June 1987, and which Bangladesh acceded to on 5th October 1998. Article 2 prohibits torture, and requires (state) parties to take effective measures to prevent it in any territory under their jurisdiction. This prohibition is absolute and non-derogable. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever maybe invoked to justify torture. In other words, torture cannot be justified as a means to protect public safety or prevent emergencies. Torture constitutes a serious offense against the dignity of the human person such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself.

Bangladesh acceded to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights on 6th September 2000. Enshrined in Article 6: Every human being hast the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his/her life. The right to life is a moral principle based on the belief that a human being has the right to live and, in particular, should not be unjustly killed by another human being. The right to life is enshrined in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Furthermore, as embodied in the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his/her interest (as a worker). The Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh acceded to this UN convention on 5th October 1998.

As a member of the United Nations, the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh should adhere to the principles and provisions of the 1992 Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Enforced disappearance undermines the deepest values of any society committed to the respect of the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is an offense to human dignity and, therefore, a crime against humanity.

Under Articles 1 (2) and 3, the declaration states, that, any act of enforced disappearance places the persons subjected thereto outside the protection of the law and inflicts severe suffering on them and their families. It constitutes a violation of the rules of international law guaranteeing, inter alia, the right to recognition as a person before the law, the right to liberty and security of the person and the right not to be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It also violates or constitutes a grave threat to the right to life. Each state shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent and terminate acts of enforced disappearance in any territory under its jurisdiction.

The Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh has the moral duty and obligation to protect its citizens from enforced disappearance, which is a crime against humanity.

The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearance is urging the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to seriously and fully investigate the enforced disappearance, torture, and murder of Aminul Islam and bring all those responsible to justice before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply to them the full extent of the law for such a horrible crime against humanity, and ensure the safety of trade unionists, labor rights activists, garment workers, and human rights defenders.

AFAD believes that the disappearance and extrajudicial killing was a direct result and reprisal for his peaceful human rights activities as a labor rights activist.

AFAD also calls on the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to:

– Sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance

– Enact domestic legislation criminalizing enforced disappearance as a crime against humanity

– Provide adequate reparation and psychosocial assistance or rehabilitation to the family of Aminul Islam

– Stop and prevent all acts of harassment and intimidation against all trade- unionists, garments workers, and all human rights defenders, and ensure in all circumstances their safety while carrying out their legitimate, peaceful advocacy work free from hindrances by members of any law enforcement authorities and other persons or agents acting on their behalf

– Effectively enforce the labor law and amend it to comply with international standards

– Investigate allegations against garment businesses who engage in anti or union busting activities

– Investigate all allegations of harassments, intimidation, threats, and abuse committed against workers and prosecute all those responsible