Guernica 37
Guernica 37

Statement on the anniversary of the disappearance of Abdullahil Amaan Al-Azmi

Abdullahil Amaan Al-Azmi, eldest son of Professor Ghulam Azam who died in custody having been sentenced to life imprisonment by the internationally condemned Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), has now been missing for a year.  Those previous calls for his release, and the demands made of the Government of Bangladesh to adhere to their obligations under domestic and international law are again reiterated.

Al-Azmi was abducted by the Bangladesh State Security Services at approximately 22:00 on August 22 2016.

On that occasion, more than thirty plain clothed men, claiming to be from the Detective Branch of the Bangladesh Police force stormed the family residence in the Moghbazar area of Dhaka.

Officers cordoned off the entire street before breaking down the door to force entry, blindfolding and severely beating the caretaker of the property, to such an extent that he was rendered unconscious.

Al-Azmi’s 82-year old mother, his wife, and his 2 youngest children (both under the age of four) were present in the house at the time of the abduction, all of whom were threatened, and put in a state of fear.

Al-Azmi has not been seen since.

At the time of the abduction, no warrant was produced by the officers, and no cause for arrest was given; further, 12 months on, no official acknowledgement of his arrest has been made, thus giving rise to very real concerns about his whereabouts and his treatment.

Despite now being detained for 12 months, he has not, contrary to the Bangladesh Constitution, its Criminal Code, and State obligations under the various international treaties to which it is party, been charged with any offence, been allowed access to legal counsel, or been brought before any tribunal, competent or otherwise, to have his detention reviewed.

Despite attempts by the family to secure his whereabouts, including the filing of criminal complaints regarding the abduction, to action has been taken, nor any information released.

The reality, is that Al-Azmi is another victim of Enforced Disappearance; a practice that is as abhorrent as it is unlawful, and a practice that has been used with increasing frequency in Bangladesh over recent years.  Notably, it is thought that more than 320 citizens have been made subject to enforced disappearance since 2009.

Further, it was in 2009, that Al-Azmi, a highly decorated ex-Brigadier General, who, having served with distinction, was dismissed without reason.

It is no coincidence that above events coincided with Sheikh Hasina’s ascension to power.

Further, it is again, no coincidence, that the abduction took place after a period of activity across social media, calling for an end to mass human rights violations, and demands made that those responsible for such violations are held to account.

On 24 February 2017, the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances demanded that the Government of Bangladesh “…act now to halt an increasing number of enforced disappearances in the country”, and to immediately reveal the whereabouts of those missing.

This demand was echoed, and endorsed by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, and the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.

The demand has thus far been ignored by the Government of Bangladesh.

The Government of Bangladesh remains ignorant to the plight of its citizens, and ignorant of its obligations under its own Constitution, and those under International Law.

It is essential that those whom can be said to have a degree of influence with the Government of Bangladesh re-iterate those demands already made.

Further, it is incumbent on the British Labour Party with its close ties to the current Government of Bangladesh through its MP, Tullip Siddiq, the niece of the current Prime Minister of Bangladesh, to publically condemn the current position, and demand the immediate release of all those currently detained, their whereabouts unknown, including Al-Azmi.

The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, personally congratulated Tullip Siddiq, and her colleagues, Rupa Huq MP, and Rushnara Ali MP, on their recent re-election; all three are morally obligated to add their weight to those voices already made public.

The Labour Party has sought to suggest that ‘Human Rights’ is ‘at the heart’ of their ‘international agenda’; to remain silent in the face of such gross human rights violations is therefore unconscionable, and entirely hypocritical.

We would further call upon the current President of Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Government of Bangladesh MP, Mr. Saber Hossain Chowdhury to also call for the immediate release of Al Azmi, in his capacity as President of a Union whose own published goals include ‘The protection and promotion of human rights are among the main goals of the Inter-Parliamentary Union’.  An organisation whose Statute at Article 1 defines Human Rights as “an essential factor leading to democracy and development”.

The current situation in Bangladesh can no longer be simply ‘tolerated’ by the international community.

It is not acceptable that MPs, and those other relevant individuals, seek to criticise the actions of some nations, and yet turn a blind eye to the actions of others.

The actions of the Government of Bangladesh, and its use of Enforced Disappearance, is no different than the regimes of Central and South America in the 1970s and 80s, it is no different that Stalinist Russia, and it is no different than those thousands who have gone missing in Syria.

In a democracy, citizens are free to speak as they choose, they are free to adopt any political position they choose, they are free; without such fundamental rights, that country is not a democracy, and ought not to be highlighted as such.

Al-Azmi is an innocent civilian who is, and has been for a year, a victim of a totalitarian and autocratic State, that, rather than engage in dialogue, seeks to silence its detractors by nefarious and unlawful means.

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