Bangladeshi authorities must immediately establish the fate and whereabouts of a surviving hostage from the recent Dhaka restaurant attack who has been missing since taken by police for questioning 10 days ago, Amnesty International said today.
Fears are growing for the well-being of Hasnat Karim, who was trapped with his wife and two children in Dhaka’s Holey Artisan Bakery on July 1, when gunmen attacked and killed more than 20 people.
The family was taken into custody by the police for questioning on July 2, and all except Karim were released on July 3.
“Hasnat Karim’s family must immediately be told whether the Bangladeshi authorities are still holding him in custody and if so allow him contact with the outside world. They have already suffered a traumatic episode, and his enforced disappearance prolongs their ordeal,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director.
“The arbitrary response of the Bangladeshi authorities to Hasnat Karim’s case risks further undermining the trust of the population in the government’s ability to defend their rights to life and liberty. The victims of the July 1 attack deserve justice. Whether Hasnat Karim is a witness or a suspect, he must receive due process, regardless of the crimes he is alleged to have committed.”
The Bangladeshi authorities have issued conflicting claims about Karim’s whereabouts. On July 10, Maudur Rahman, the Deputy Commissioner of the Dhaka Police claimed that Karim had been released four days earlier. His statement directly contradicted information the Detective Branch gave the family on July 9, when they said the police still had Karim in custody.
“The contradictory claims in this case will inevitably heighten concerns. If the authorities do have Hasnat Karim in custody, then they must release him immediately or produce him in a court of law for any charges to be filed against him,” said Patel.
The family is also concerned about Karim’s health. He suffers a heart condition and requires regular treatment.
“Hasnat Karim’s family’s fears must be addressed. The Bangladeshi authorities have a poor track record when it comes to human rights in custody, with violations including torture and other ill-treatment, often to obtain ‘confessions’ and the denial of medical treatment,” said Patel.
Enforced disappearances are a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which Bangladesh is a state party, and an international crime.
An enforced disappearance typically occurs when state agents arrest or abduct a person but then refuse to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or conceal the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, placing him or her outside the protection of the law.
Once out of the public eye, individuals subjected to enforced disappearance are at great risk torture, other ill-treatment, and death.