A legal remedy is yet to come forth from either the court or law enforcement about incidents of enforced disappearance due to a lack of persistent protests and legal fights.
Take the case of former BNP lawmaker M Ilias Ali, who along with his driver, went missing from the capital’s Banani on the night of April 17, 2012.
His wife Tahmina Rushdir Luna filed a writ petition with the High Court on April 19, 2012, claiming that law enforcers had illegally detained her husband. His fellow party leaders have alleged the same.
Tahmina sought HC orders on law enforcers to produce Ilias before the court.
Following the writ petition, the HC issued a rule upon the law enforcement agencies to explain within 10 days why they should not be directed to produce Ilias before it or prove that he was not detained by them.
However, eight years on, the HC is yet to start hearing on the rule as neither the petitioner nor the government has taken any initiative for the hearing.
Therefore, the matter was not settled and no verdict was delivered on it.
In May that year, five law enforcement agencies submitted separate reports to the HC in line with the rule issued by the HC on April 19, 2012.
In these reports, the law enforcement agencies claimed BNP leader Ilias Ali, then organising secretary of the Sylhet division of the party, was not in their custody since “they had not picked up or detained him”, sources in the attorney general’s office said.
The reports, prepared by the offices of the inspector general of police (IGP), Rapid Action Battalion (Rab), Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Special Branch (SB), and Banani Police Station, claimed they were making all necessary efforts to find Ilias Ali’s whereabouts.
Following Ilias’s case, several other cases were moved before the HC seeking necessary directives on the authorities concerned over such incidents of enforced disappearance, but no order has yet come from this court as a remedy to such incidents.
AM Mahbub Uddin Khokon, the lawyer representing Ilias’s wife Tahmina, told The Daily Star on Thursday that he did not take any move for hearing of the HC rule considering that no remedy can be received as the law enforcement agencies told the court that they had not detained Ilias Ali.
It is the constitutional duty of the state machinery to find out the whereabouts of Ilias Ali and others who remain missing, but there is apparently no serious move from law enforcers to this effect, he said.
Mahbub Uddin Khokon, also a joint secretary general of BNP and former lawmaker, said law enforcers are allegedly responsible for most enforced disappearances, but instead of being held accountable, are rather given impunity.
Besides, there are also some limitations of the court and therefore, a legal remedy for incidents of enforced disappearance cannot be found, he added.
Persistent campaigning, legal fights, and the government’s sincerity are required in order to stop further enforced disappearances and ensure justice for victims and their families, rights activists and lawyers told The Daily Star recently.
Explaining why no legal remedy is found over these incidents, Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) Chairperson ZI Khan Panna said on Thursday the families of victims of enforced disappearances, rights organisations and lawyers have hardly moved for legal fights against enforced disappearance.
They hold some programmes, including discussions and human chains, only on August 30 every year to observe the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.
“We don’t fight the rest of the year against incidents of enforced disappearance. This is why we do not get redress for such incidents,” he said.
Also a Supreme Court lawyer and executive member of the Bangladesh Bar Council, Panna gave the example of how mass arrest and detention used to take place on a large scale several years ago.
“But we had waged movements continuously against such inhumane incidents and now mass arrests and detentions have gone down,” he added.
“We — the lawyers, rights organisations, and victims’ families — need to enforce continuous movements and legal fights to stop incidents of enforced disappearance.”
Manzill Murshid, a Supreme Court lawyer and president of Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh, told this correspondent on Friday that law enforcers are behind most incidents of enforced disappearance but they deny the allegations.
The police have reportedly refused to record cases involving enforced disappearance and as a result, cases have rarely been filed in connection with incidents of enforced disappearances. Therefore, effective orders have not come from the court, he said.
Manzill Murshid said the High Court may take these incidents seriously and may issue suo motu (voluntary) orders to stop such incidents and find out those responsible for these incidents.
The authorities concerned, including the heads of law enforcement agencies, need to issue the necessary directives so that law enforcers don’t dare involve themselves in incidents of enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killings, he added.
Contacted, Law Minister Anisul Huq did not give any comment on the issue of enforced disappearances.
“I have to understand what enforced disappearance is and then I will comment,” he said on Friday.