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(Washington, D.C.) -- Amnesty International today urges Bangladesh authorities to initiate a thorough investigation into the deaths of two men, killed on April 23 while protesting the disappearance of a key opposition figure.
Ilias Ali, secretary of the Sylhet division of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), disappeared, together with his driver Ansar Ali, on April 17.
"The Bangladesh authorities must establish an independent investigation to determine how these men died and who fired the bullets, and bring to justice those responsible for the deaths," said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International's Bangladesh researcher.
Ilias Ali's disappearance is the latest in a spate of disappearances in which security forces, including the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), have been implicated, though they deny detaining those missing.
Monawar Hossain was found dead in the Biswanath area of Sylhet with gunshot wounds, and a second man died of bullet wounds in a Sylhet hospital. According to witnesses, police opened fire on demonstrators after being attacked with stones.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called on police to investigate the disappearance of Ilias Ali and his driver. Paradoxically, she also stated the two men chose to go into hiding to "create an issue."
"Why did the prime minister order an inquiry, but then claim she knows what has happened?" said Faiz. "Any inquiry will be credible only if it is independent and free from police and political involvement -- otherwise it risks simply towing the police line."
This year alone, one trade unionist has been killed, and more than 20 people have "disappeared" in Bangladesh.
On April 4, Aminul Islam, a trade union leader, went missing and was later found dead in Ghatail, north of Dhaka. His family saw evidence of torture on his body and suspect he was abducted by security forces. He had previously been arrested and beaten by members of the National Security Intelligence for his trade union activities.
"Aminul Islam was an outspoken leader known for his ability to mobilize workers for better conditions, which made him a target," said Faiz. "There appears to pattern of enforced disappearances -- a concerted effort to eliminate people deemed undesirable."
Two other BNP members, Iftekhar Ahmed Dinar and Junaid Ahmed, went missing on April 2. Iftekhar Ahmed's family say the two men were taken from their homes by plain clothes officers. Their whereabouts remain unknown.
Amnesty International has spoken to family members of many of the victims, who say abductions are usually carried out by security officers who are easily identified because they wear similar, plain clothing, including heavy duty shoes unusual for the hot Bangladesh climate. They also have short hair.
Amnesty International has documented abductions and killings by Bangladesh security forces, especially the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), for years.
"These disappearances cannot be simply brushed off -- it is the government's responsibility to bring the perpetrators to account, and ensure justice for the victims," said Faiz.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.