Tortured By The Bangladesh Military

In May I wrote about the abduction of Bangladeshi journalist, and fellow blogger, Tasneem Khalil by the Bangladeshi military. Tasneem was picked up in the middle of the night for daring to criticize the military that had taken control of Bangladesh in a coup in January of this year. After a worldwide campaign by bloggers, human rights organizations, diplomats, and news organizations Tasneem was released a day later. According to Human Rights Watch, while in custody Tasneem was tortured and forced to "confess" to "anti-state" activities. Yet Tasneem is one of the lucky ones.

Since taking power in January the military regime in Bangladesh has suspended fundamental rights and has embarked on a systematic campaign of arrest, intimidation and torture under the guise of its so-called "anti-corruption" drive. The military has detained 200,000 citizens and tortured many of them as it tries to decimate the major political parties in what was the second largest democracy in the Muslim world.

Tasneem Khalil is now in Sweden after efforts by Human Rights Watch and western diplomats secured his safe passage out of Bangladesh. Today Human Rights Watch sent a letter to Bangladesh’s military regime protesting its record of human rights violations including its torture of Tasneem Khalil. The letter is a chilling indictment of the lawless regime that now rules Bangladesh with force of arms:

Since your administration took over, torture of persons in the custody of the security forces has continued to be routine. Many people have died in custody in unexplained circumstances. Your government has not put into place the most basic safeguards to ensure proper independent access to places of detention, requiring all persons to be held in official places of detention, and establishing a process whereby independent investigations are routinely undertaken when deaths in custody occur.  
The joint forces, led by the army, have shown almost complete disregard for established legal norms conducting arrests and holding people in detention. Instead of being brought immediately before a magistrate, detainees are routinely taken to army barracks and other unofficial places of detention and tortured, both as punishment and to force them to sign confessions. Many people are being picked up in the middle of the night without warrant. Led by Bangladesh’s military intelligence unit, the DGFI, the security forces are often in plainclothes and offer no identification. When asked, they claim they can do anything they want because they are thus empowered under Bangladesh’s emergency laws.  

We are particularly concerned because the rule of law appears to be breaking down under your administration. Under the emergency laws, the right to bail and the right to appeal are routinely denied. Court decisions are regularly ignored. Bangladesh’s many fine judges and lawyers are not being allowed to play their legitimate roles in the legal and judicial process. When some judges began ordering bail when habeas corpus petitions were filed, public prosecutors have secured contrary rulings from the Appellate Division, even in cases where there is clearly no threat to public security or risk of flight. This is all happening under an administration that claims to be committed to reform.  
Illegal acts by the security forces are being enabled by the sweeping emergency rules your administration has put in place, which are being misused on a daily basis by the armed forces. Under emergency rules that ban protests and limit effective legal remedies, the security forces believe they can commit abuses with impunity.

We would particularly like to use this opportunity to remind you of the case of journalist Tasneem Khalil, who has worked as a consultant for Human Rights Watch and as a stringer for CNN. On May 11, 2007, Mr. Khalil was taken into custody after midnight by men in plainclothes claiming to be Bangladesh’s “joint task force.” Mr. Khalil was taken from his home in front of his wife and child, blindfolded and driven to an interrogation center, where he was tortured and questioned about his work as a journalist, writings on his blog, as well as his employment with Human Rights Watch and CNN. Many of Mr. Khalil’s possessions, including computers, phones and passport, were confiscated when his home was ransacked. We immediately contacted your government for help, and Mr. Khalil was eventually released after more than 22 hours in custody.  
We have since learned that Mr. Khalil had been held and tortured by the DGFI. The interrogation center Mr. Khalil was taken to is an extension of the DGFI headquarters in Dhaka cantonment that houses at least one torture chamber and a detention facility. This is a full-time illegal detention and torture facility. Mr. Khalil saw sophisticated torture equipment and could hear other detainees screaming in pain. At least five DGFI officers took part in the torture sessions that left Mr. Khalil with severe injuries. At one point he was photographed with a revolver and some bullets placed before him, suggesting that he was being set up for a faked “crossfire killing.” Before his release, Mr. Khalil was forced to make false confessions, and asked to sign documents and testify on video admitting to acts that could be considered treasonous. We have received other credible reports of the same type of activities by DGFI.  
As you know, Bangladesh’s military forces have become notorious for taking people into custody, torturing them to death or executing them in faked “crossfire killings.” We were concerned that Mr. Khalil would meet a similar fate even after his release. He had to remain in hiding until, after long and unnecessary negotiations, his passport was eventually returned and he and his family were able to leave Bangladesh for safety abroad.  
In a sense Mr. Khalil was fortunate. He had the advantage of foreign friends, colleagues, and diplomats who were in a position to appeal to your government for help. However, there are thousands now in custody, unable to secure bail and often subjected to torture, who are not so well connected. We do not know who is being tortured at this very minute by DGFI or others, but we do know that it is happening.  
We appreciate your personal intervention and that of other government officials to ensure Mr. Khalil’s release and safe exit from the country. But as his case makes clear, arbitrary arrest and detention and torture are a significant problem in Bangladesh today.  
Your government knows who was responsible for Mr. Khalil’s torture – and that of many other victims – where they work, and where the torture centers are located. Your government knows that these are not isolated cases – an untold number of people are being tortured every day. As a matter of basic human decency as well as your obligations under international law, you must act to close down such torture centers without delay. We look forward to public statements from you and members of your government on this subject, as well as action.  

The Bush Administration has offered tacit support to the military regime in Bangladesh. Last week Mr. Bush praised the military regime in Bangladesh by saying "we support your efforts to fight corruption and collect taxes." Mr. Bush also praised the military for its "roadmap" to hold elections at the end of 2008 and return democracy to Bangladesh. The last time the Bangladesh military presented a similar election "roadmap" was in 1975 when they came to power in a bloody coup. In that instance the military ruled for 16 years until finally the people of Bangladesh rose up to force the military back into the barracks and restore democracy.

This military regime in Bangladesh will eventually be driven back to the barracks. In the mean time, it is determined to practice its own special brand of thuggery while it fights "corruption" and collects "taxes".


This entry was posted in Bangladesh, Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Torture. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Tortured By The Bangladesh Military

  1. Tanoy says:

    I am surprised to see the report of prothom-alotoday about HRW report-

    Just see the report how it is published. They simply avoid the whole letter and indirectly manipulated the HRW speech. They have published only the part of this letter. Is it the picture of freedom of press? Is it not the yellow journalism from biggest circulated News paper of Bangladesh?
    Either CTG did not give the Correct one or PA PUBLISHED IT BY KNOWING EVERY THING.

    This type of Fre4edom of press Motiur Rahman is Claiming.

  2. Rajib says:

    Where were these human right concerns when AL and BNP activists and “respecteced” MPs were fucking HR all over BD?

  3. Mash says:

    Rajib, please feel free to read HRW reports on Bangladesh here. Please note the 2005 HRW report about right-wing BNP/Jamaat government’s persecution of the Ahmadiyya Muslims here.

    Please read the 79-page HRW report on the extra-judicial killings of RAB under the BNP government here from 2006. Please also note that Tasneem Khalil provided research support to the HRW report on RAB:

    This report was researched and written by Fred Abrahams, senior emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch. Dhaka-based journalist and human rights activist Tasneem Khalil provided invaluable research support.

    So, notwithstanding your foul language (which I urge you to refrain from on my blog in the future), you are wrong on the facts. HRW has consistently criticized human rights violations in Bangladesh and the rest of the world. If you want to take shots at Human Rights Watch, at least be in possession of the facts. Otherwise you just appear to be angry that they criticized the Bangladesh military’s flagrant violations of human rights. If you have any doubts about HRW’s charges, please feel free to write about them here. Simply taking pot-shots at HRW without any basis in fact does not make you very credible.

  4. Rajib says:

    I am sorry for my earlier comment. I do not support the human abuses by the Military either. The case of that Garo leader is still fresh in people’s mind. However, in terms of “abuse” of the country (not just Human Rights), the current regime is far better than what we had in last 10/15 years of so called democracy(!) – at least up to this point.

  5. ZaFa says:

    Rajib, on what basis have you drawn the conclusion that “the current regime is far better than what we had in last 10/15 years of so called democracy(!) – at least up to this point” ?

  6. Tanoy says:

    Rajib , I don’t want comment on your Slang but let me tell you one thing hRW is no the policial partty . They wrok on basis on truth and I think you should read the #3 of Mash. Please Just don’t write any thing basis of assmption only.

  7. Salam Dhaka says:

    Rajib is right as long as you are are part of the Gulshan Banani clique. These are good times – tons of donor money floating around if you want to start a Think Tank or do some research on poverty reduction.

    Who really gives a damn about the rest of the 95% of the country, they can take care of their own problems.

  8. Kay Thomas says:

    Maybe someday this world will be a peaceful planet where all beings take care of one another.

  9. Dear friends I hope you enjoy reading this article and find it informative. It was emailed to a journalist in the UK.

    The Prisoner of Dhaka

    Well John as always you write well, and you have good intentions no doubt, BUT I think even though the case of Moudud Ahmed is very sad—–no due process for an ex law minister—–the irony!, you have to understand the background of the country, and the over all situation and history, to put it all in context, otherwise it looks like a case of another banana republic doing funny things to its once high and mighty——-and inadvertently reinforces racial stereotypes. This is not a justification of his poor treatment, and at a personal level I do not know him, or his life history, but an attempt and explaining the deeper wider issues which finds him in such a sorry state. As an investigative journalist you would normally be addressing such things anyway, as you have done with many other cases.

    First Bangladesh is a British managed puppet state—–and most of the leading political actors from the BNP, Awami League head to London for their political approval or policy ideas, or to invest their loot taken from the poor people of Bangladesh.

    A good deal of the state structure is also trained by the British, most notably the army, where each year the best cadets from the army are sent to train at Sandhurst. So the military elite is British orientated. The last time I checked the Bangladesh military was ‘125,000’ strong.

    Again, making the same point as before, lets not tut tut righteously, and say quietly to ourselves that this is another case of a Third World banana republic being brutal to its own—and shrug, because it does not explain a lot of background things. As with the above point we should ask who controls the local Third World actors who does these things? To what extent is the brutality in South America, Africa and Asia the random manifestation of local actors or the coordinated actions of Western corporations and government agencies?

    As to Britain, what it has done in the UK, most notably in Northern Ireland and in other instances, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan is far worse than what the military regime in Bangladesh is doing, or has ever done. The Bangladesh military is disciplined, and the country does better under military rule.

    I myself tried to practice as a Barrister in Bangladesh in 2002, in the Chambers of Tawfik Nawaz? Well known and clean Barrister. I experienced many many difficulties, as a result of which I had to leave the country eventually, after a very short time. Clearly somebody powerful didn’t want me working in that country—-the BNP was in power then, and the British were as active as ever.

    The people of Bangladesh must eventually find their ‘freedom’ from the clutches of the British neo-imperialists, and the genocides exacted by that imperial power upon the poor wretched people of that country and region.

    You have done great work for Bangladesh and her people a you have done for others around the world, and I honor you for that. You were great with Cambodia and East Timur, so lets hear about Bangladesh a little bit more. But permit me to educate you a little about the wider issues, which finds the country in such a state.

    These are random factors which have effected adversely the attitude of the British state towards the people of Bangladesh. It is not meant to be a criticism of the British people, or even 99.999% of the population who have better things to preoccupy themselves with, but rather a criticism of the bureaucrats and elite around London who formulate policy which have adversely affected the fortunes of that country:

    * The ‘Black hole of Calcutta’ 1757 incident falsely used by the British to justify their conquest of India—–‘The dreaded Bengaali’ ‘The evil conniving slippery Bengali……’ ‘The Bengaali Babbu know it all’ mainly directed as Hindu Bengalis.
    * The history of British rule in Bengal started off badly and only got worse. Bengal was the ‘Pearl of India’ in the eighteenth century, and only after 50 years of British rule, after they had plundered it, it became the poorest state in India. In 1769 in order to grow cash crops like Indigo and jute, local farmers were banned from growing rice, and as a result 10 million people died—-Warren Hastings the serving governor of Bengal was taken to trial for that crime this but was eventually cleared, of course. Misrule continued in the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century. In 1943 just when it seemed the Japanese were about to Invade India from the East, the British surrounded the state of Bengal, passed laws prohibiting rice imports from surrounding states, sent agents to buy up the rice in Bengal, and finally ringed the state with police and paramilitaries to forcefully starve and kill 3-6 million people, and thus keep ‘control’ of the state——on the assumption that there ‘might’ be rebellion. You understand the callousness and paranoia of the Raj.
    * The British are color averse, speaking as one who has grown up in the UK. Most Bengalees are brown to dark brown people of Indo-Burmese stock—80%. Racism defined British rule in Bengal, and still does. It is no coincidence that the British empire entirely involved subjugating and exploiting people of color.
    * Britian is an Islamophobic country traditionally—Crusades etc. It becomes more Islamophobic with the Jews of London and their control of the media, and the creation of Israel.
    * Bengal was the first major Indian state to experience British rule. With it came Western ideas and knowledge. Put together this with Brahmanical education in high caste Hindus, and what you had was a major advancement of high caste Hindus taking advantage of Western education, and fusing it with their traditional Indian knowledge, from the eighteenth into the nineteenth century. Thus naturally this new breed of educated Bengalis become conscious of themselves and they spear headed the intellectual drive for independence. The political class for India’s independence was dominated by Hindu Bengalis, and it irritated the British no end———just another evidence of the ‘dreaded Bengaali’. The Bengaali Hindu political class defeated early British efforts to divide the state of Bengal along religious lines–1905—–1912, using Satyagraha—peaceful resistence. After the British created the Muslim League in Dhaka, East Bengal in 1905. The British in a huff in 1913, took the capitol of the Raj from Calcutta to Delhi, as far away as possible from the ‘dreaded Bengaali’.
    * 1857 Indian Liberation war. Of the three armies of the Raj, which controlled India, it was the 139,000 strong Bengal Presidency army which rebelled and fought the British. There after Bengalis and especially Brahmins were banned from being recruited into the Raj army. The Liberation war created further animosity, as there were wide scale fighting and extreme brutality by both sides against armed forces and civilians alike—–Severe British brutality against locals and harsh police tactics, similar to those of the Ulster constabulary continued right up to independence in the states of Bihar, Orissa and BENGAL—three of the most impoverished states of India, and areas of continued rebellion even now by Naxals–it has become part of the culture, inherited from the British.
    * From 1919–1947, there was renewed armed struggles by armed groups of Bengali fighters against the British. In that time two British governors of Bengal were assassinated, along with many civil servants and police.
    * The great Indian political leader from Bengal Subhas Bhose who advocated Indian independence through armed struggle, with foreign assistance appeared on the Burmese border in 1944, with an army of 40,000. They were defeated by the allies, but the psychological effect on the British and Indians alike was tremendous, and one of the key factors the British judged it was time to leave India.
    * The British as part of their divide and rule policy created many frictions in Indian society. One of these was the creation of prejudice and friction between states in India. They deliberately propagated the image that Bengalis as sly, devious, feeble and weak and not be trusted (no noble characteristics and thus not be accorded any respect——Apu redux). This had adverse affects after independence when the Punjabi dominated government of Pakistan took over, where the majority of the people of the new nation of Pakistan were ‘Dreaded Bengaaalis’ 56%. And so this artificially created state by the British just couldn’t gel, and whilst Bengalis couldn’t become leader of overall Pakistan, they couldn’t even become leaders of their own part of the country—–continuation of colonialism. When the Punjabis finally left East Pakistan in 1971, they left with a vengeance, not something one would characterize with true fellow countrymen and fellow Muslims. The British had educated the Raj army well. See the performance and behavior of the Pakistan army in Baluchistan and FATA.
    * Sections of the British elite can exhibit the feminine /Jewey character of holding historical grudges over a very long period of time, well past their sell by date.The East India Company was a Jewish run operation, and the Rothschild’s and the Jews basically financed the British empire, and were its main beneficiary. Around 3,000 Jew/gentile families around London, exemplified by the cities wealth did well out of the British empire, whilst the rest of the British population did the grunt work, and superficial flag waving. This historical grudge is best exemplified by the hatred that is directed by London towards Russia, with the help of the Rothschilds tools in Washington. They with their American agents financed the Russian Communist revolution which claimed the lives of up to 40 million people in that region. But like a psychopath who hates their victims———they are not done yet; they want more. Its irrational hatred because all the Russians are asking for is a little bit of dignity, fair treatment and to be recognized for what they are——————-but no! no! damn it no!
    * There are no Bengalis living in the UK——–true to this historical grudge. The 300,000 ‘Bangladeshis’ that are living in the UK are technically ASSAMESE. They over overwhelmingly come from the Syhlet district of Bangladesh which in 1947 was part of ASSAM, but was latched on to East Bengal——East Pakistan, because of its Muslim majority. The ‘Bangladeshis’ who live in the UK are at the bottom of British society living in some of the worst houses, enjoying living standards below that of all other ethnic communities including Africans. They subsist in the country by running their private economy consisting of restaurants. The unemployment rate is high; they live in inner city ghetto’s and their education is poor. Drugs and prostitution has been introduced into the community by state institutions, since the early nineties, as way to help weaken the community.
    * Human nature is random and over overwhelmingly irrational, contrary to the modern myth of the rational Western man—– a load of baloney. It was just bad luck that Mughal India was the richest nation on earth, and BENGAL its richest part. This reputation attracted the wrong crowd criminals from London aka ‘The East India company’———-and since 1757 for Bengal it has been one unremitting bad experience. This is a cautionary tale to all the nations on earth about London, its Jews and the Rothschild’s. All nations have a duty to themselves to find out which companies are their fronts, from the UK, Holland and the USA, and then avoid doing business with them. These people don’t believe in live and let live, sharing wealth, and have been a source of major problems for Europe in the nineteenth century, and the world in the twentieth century. Since they have never been held to account, so they continue with business as usual——–because educated people in the know fear to question this fact. You see its not politically correct.
    * Paranoia, the very serious business of empire, power, military conquest has its own set of logic, separate from the normal rational world.
    * Humans are creatures of habit, and once a trend is set, humans don’t like to change them that easily. British rule was bad from the beginning in Bengal, and it has continued since.

    Because of these factors, the country has experienced many problems since 1947:

    * The very first governor of East Pakistan was a British Civil servant, because the political leadership of the country was marginalized, or not allowed entry from India, whilst the British consolidated their new artificially created country—Pakistan, the perennially failed state managed by the UK/USA.
    * Then West Pakistanis ran East Pakistan like a colony, with all its heads being non-Bengalis, right up to 1971. This is stuff you are well familiar with, so I won’t go over this too much except to say that during British rule of the sub-continent, they encouraged differences between the various states. So the ‘marshal race’ Punjabis who were recruited into the Raj army were indoctrinated into hating/looking down on Bengalis.
    * Then there was the 1971 war, and all the devastation that came with that.
    * The 1971 December 13th massacre of the 270 Dhaka intellectuals of professors, journalists and artists seems on the surface like a bog standard ISI covert op. using Islamic fundamentalists nutjobs, but when you look at the issue in greater depth (Channel 4 did an excellent documentary on this event in 1997, and I encourage you to watch it) it looks like the orders came from the ISI masters in London. Most of the Islamic fundamentalists who did the dirty deed, including their leader went on to live in London, and ran a very large Mosque in the East End, until the channel 4 program exposed them. The leader of the group, Moinuddin Khan was invited to 10 Downing street and shook hands with the PM, John Major. I hope John you do a thorough investigative report of the links between the British state, with Islamic fundamentalists going back to the last century, and how local intelligence agencies use such people, in Third World societies. It ties in with Australia, especially under Howard.
    * From 1972-75 Bangladesh went through a very difficult period of destabilization, and an eventual coup, backed by the USA overtly, and the UK covertly. John I don’t know how much you are into elite ‘conspiracies’, but if you are into the NWO thing, and that the Rothschilds of London are the main operators, and people like Brzezinski and Kissinger their tools, then you will understand the picture of why Shiekh Mujib ur Rahman was invited to the UK in 1975, and then upon his return when all the pieces for the coup were set, the army massacred his entire family including a child of a few years. That just about sums them up doesn’t it? Without being too narrow, if you really are into explaining the problems of Third World societies then all you have to do is look at the ‘The City’ and the Rothschild’s, whilst developing a strong conscience saying that ‘I’m not anti-Semitic’—-merely objective, looking at cause and effect.
    * Then General Zia ul Rahman.1975–81……………some stability and development. He himself was not corrupt but he did out of insecurity allow corrupt men into his cabinet—-setting a bad example for future democratic governments. He armed and politicized the students unions—very very dangerous. He allowed British military trainers into the country after an absence of 30 years in 1977—-unforgivable, on the advice of the Callaghan Labor government! He focused development of the nation on a Western model not suitable for Bangladesh from the 1950’s, when instead he should have invested heavily into infrastructure; education; export and industry—-in addition focus on institution building of the bureaucratic center—strong anti-corrupt efficient state institutions—-the secret of Singapore’s success, and not democracy. He squandered the huge amounts of help the Carter administration gave him—maybe we should not expect too much from a military man with minimal education. Relations deteriorated with India during his tenure. He was invited to the UK on a state visit, whilst in the UK the pieces for the coup was fixed by the UK, and he was killed upon his return in 1981 by the UK. Indira Gandhi partly got the blame!
    * General Ershad 1982-90. Not corrupt, built up the countries infrastructure, and some development took place. He was a womanizer, but not a major problem all things considered. Lost power in 1990, after a popular uprising.
    * Since then we have had the two women, in democracy constantly bickering about the past, with no real development.

    Obviously Bangladeshis can’t go through history blaming their national problems on the British significant as it has been, but sooner or later they have to take matters into their own hands. With a population of 150 million, rising to 350 million by 2050, sooner the better.


    Mostaque A Ali.

Comments are closed.