Mir Ahmad Bin Quasem, a member of the Bar of England and Wales, an Advocate of the Bangladesh Supreme Court Bar Association, and citizen of The People’s Republic of Bangladesh has today been missing for one year. He was forcibly abducted by Members of the State Security Forces from his home in front of his family. 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 remain unanswered. We reiterate those demands again on the anniversary of disappearance.
Mir Ahmad Bin Quassem is the son of Mir Quasem Ali, a member of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami who was convicted by the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) and summarily executed in circumstances which has been described by international jurists as a flagrant denial of justice and which the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called for a suspension of the verdict due to concerns of due process.
Mir Ahmad was a member of his father’s defence team up until his execution and was abducted whilst the appeal was ongoing.
At approximately 23:00 on 9 August 2016, Mir Ahmad was detained at the address he shared with his wife and children, by eight to nine men who were identified as being members of the Bangladesh Security Services.
Mir Ahmad was forced from the property and placed into a mini-bus, whereupon he was driven away from the property, in circumstances mirroring the disappearances of other prominent individuals; this was the last occasion upon which he was seen.
Despite Mir Ahmad 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 granted access to legal counsel, or been brought before any tribunal, competent or otherwise, to have his detention reviewed.
The reality, is that Mir Ahmad 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.
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, including Mir Ahmad.
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 that continues to mislead the international community that it has no information as to the whereabouts of Mir Ahmad or other persons abducted in similar circumstances.
Further, the British legal community, including the Bar Human Rights Committee have condemned the practice, highlighting the importance of the Rule of Law, and the need for legal professionals to be allowed to practice without fear of state retribution.
Mir Ahmad’s position, and the wider spread of Enforced Disappearance, has been raised with the Government of Bangladesh by the European Union’s ‘European External Action Service’, again with no action being taken.
Further, the status of Mir Ahmad has been the subject of an official UK Parliamentary Question, asked by Shabana Mahmood MP, and answered on 30 January 2017 by Alok Sharma MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Of particular note, Bangladesh was in front of the UN Human Rights Committee in March 2017 whereupon its human rights record, in particular enforced disappearance, was placed under scrutiny.
Despite the above, 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 Mir Ahmad.
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 Mir Ahmad, 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”.
In September 2017, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group will meet in New York. The Commonwealth is founded on a number of core principles concerning global peace, support for the United Nations, individual liberty, eradication of poverty, opposition to racism and the establishment of free trade cooperation. All of those principles can perhaps be encapsulated in the proposition that the Commonwealth stands for freedom, for development, and for the protection and furtherance of human rights and fundamental democratic principles.
The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth is called upon to place deteriorating human rights situation in Bangladesh at the centre of its policy discussions in New York.
Finally, the United Nations will hold its Autumn Sessions in Geneva (Human Rights Council) and New York (General Assembly). It is incumbent upon the UN Secretary-General and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, respectively, to place the long overdue situation in Bangladesh on the agenda of the United Nations.
The current situation can no longer be simply ‘tolerated’ by the international community.
It is not acceptable that parliamentarians, 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 Disappearances, is no different than the regimes of Central and South America in the 1970s and 1980s, it is no different to that of Stalinist Russia.
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 can no longer consider itself a democracy, and ought not to be highlighted as such.
Mir Ahmad 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. Those with a voice must speak out now for Mir Ahmad so that he can be released to his wife and two young daughters who need him returned to them.
Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers
Church Court Chambers
Note: Toby Cadman and Michael Polak act as Counsel to Mir Ahmad Bin Quasem and his family and have filed Communications with the UN Special Procedures Branch in Geneva.
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