BANGLADESH: Police prevent a journalist from filing torture allegations against paramilitary soldiers

 

                                                                     We have Former President of National Students Federationlearned that a team from
the Rapid Action Battalion-10, a paramilitary force involved in
maintaining law and order in Bangladesh, tortured a journalist at his
house while in their custody, and detained him for more than ten
hours. The soldiers made a fabricated video at his house and in their
office involving drugs, in an attempt to discredit him. The police
would not allow him to register a torture complaint against his
perpetrators and the authorities have not yet taken any lawful action
into this matter.

CASE DETAILS:

On 22 October 2009, according to the victim and other eyewitnesses, a
(Rapid Action Battalion) RAB-10 team, in plain cloth, raided a house
under the jurisdiction of the Jatrabari police, in Dhaka. One
resident, Mr. F. M. Masum is a crime reporter for the New Age – a national daily newspaper based in Dhaka, and lives on the second
floor.

At about 10:30am, Masum saw some plain clothed people beating the wife
of the owner of the house in front of the building’s gate. They asked
him to open the gate and he refused, but when the men identified
themselves as RAB personnel he obeyed. However the men then started to
beat him.

The battalion personnel, led by Fight Lieutenant Anis, took him inside
and started to torture him with iron rods, wooden stick and with the
blunt backside of machetes. According to the victim they hit him on
the knees and other joints, then applied salt to the bleeding wounds.
After about an hour they took him inside his apartment where they
reportedly produced six bottles of Phensidyl (codeine) syrup, placed
them on his bed and videoed the display.

The battalion took him to the RAB 10 headquarters at Dhalpur, while
handcuffed. Masum begged to be allowed his inhaler; the officer swore
at him and refused. The torture then continued at the RAB-10 office,
where he was told that he may be arranged to die in a ‘crossfire’
killing. The team stuck a label on Masum’s t-shirt that read ‘Drug
peddler’ and shot more video with another batch of drugs at the
office.

In the meantime we are told that senior journalists of the New Age
contacted the battalion’s director general, home secretary and the
home minister, telling them that the arrest was mistaken. The
journalists were given different reasons for his detention by
different battalions; some claimed Masum had been found in possession
of Pethedine, some said with Phensidyl syrup, while some others said
they found him with prostitutes. They promised his release.
After these assurances from the battalion’s director general, home
secretary and home minister, it took four more hours for Masum to be
released at 10:30pm. The colleagues he was released to had to sign a
paper that alleged that he had been picked up for not cooperating with
law-enforcers, but was being released ‘in good health’. Masum reportedly was covered in torture wounds; his body and his feet were swollen, his eyes bloodshot. After being admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH), physicians advised that he have a CT scan and X-ray, with the tests run early Friday. Masum was then discharged earlyfrom the DMCH, at about 2:30pm although his condition was still serious. He admitted himself to the Dhaka Community Hospital, a private hospital, on the same day where he is being treated.

Masum told that he is experiencing hearing problems in his left ear and has serious pain in his knees, elbows, shoulders, soles and in the back of the head. Quoting his physicians he said that his full physical recovery may
take many months, if medical treatment is adequately provided.

On 23 October, the RAB Headquarters released a statement
<http://www.rab.gov.bd/news_dtls.php?nid=3060>
which said” “RAB sincerely expresses regret for the unwarranted
incident that has taken place between RAB personnel and journalist FM
Masum of the largely-circulated daily New Age. RAB is looking into the
matter with importance. The RAB headquarters has formed an inquiry
team and the matter is being investigated. Punitive action will be
taken against anyone of RAB found guilty.”

However Mr. Shahiduzzaman, the Chief Reporter at the paper, told the
AHRC that the Jatrabari police rejected their attempts to register a
complaint at the station on 24 October.

On 25 October the Home Minister Ms. Sahara Khatun along with her
deputy Mr. Shamsul Haque Tuku, state minister, visited Masum at the
Dhaka Community Hospital. The Home Minister assured him that his
torture allegations will be registered, yet the Jatrabari police have
still not acted.

The only action that appears to have been taken inside the RAB is for
one man, Flight Lieutenant Anis, to have been transferred to the
Bangladesh Air Force, where he used to serve.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Masum and his family have accused the staff of the Dhaka Medical
College Hospital (DMCH) of misconduct, regarding his hasty treatment
and discharge, and suspect that they were influenced by the military
connection of the case.

The New Age, as a national daily, constantly highlights the issues
surrounding human rights abuses in Bangladesh., with the editor, Mr.
Nurul Kabir known for his independent views, expressed in writing,
televised talk-shows and civil society meetings on the rule of law and
human rights issues. Before his torture F. M. Masum reportedly
published several articles on extrajudicial killings conducted by the
RAB.
We strongly urge Mrs. Sheikh Hasina Prime Minister to take an immedate action as not only the compensation, but also the justice is required by the people of our region.

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