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Bangladesh: Attempted Abduction Indicates Security Forces Act with Impunity

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(Bangkok, 16 May 2014) – The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), a regional human rights NGO, strongly condemns the failure of the Government in preventing the security forces from committing and aiding serious human rights violations. The recent attempted abduction of Mr. Mohammad Nur Khan, Director of Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) at a time when the Security Forces are facing charges of having killed seven persons clearly demonstrates that they continue to act with impunity.

The abduction attempt on Mr. Khan is very likely connected to his work with ASK against enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. ASK and Mr. Khan specifically, as the organization’s Director of Investigation and Documentation, have consistently criticised Bangladeshi security forces, particularly the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), for carrying out extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances. “Extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances became rampant in Bangladesh after the creation of the RAB in 2004. This unit has been used as an instrument to carry out politically motivated executions in recent times. Those who address issues of impunity by the security forces have become more vulnerable to these attacks,” warned Evelyn Balais-Serrano, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA.

Mr. Khan has been a key figure implicating the RAB in several cases including the abduction and killing of seven people in early May. The RAB finds itself in an unprecedented imbroglio following civil society’s successful campaign to have the murders adequately investigated and Mr. Khan has been an important part of this campaign.

In the last month, unidentified persons have come to his office to enquire about his movements and he reported being followed by a motorcycle in the last few days. Mr. Khan had filed a complaint with the police on 20 April 2014, but no action was taken. “Despite specific complaints by Mr. Khan the authorities have failed to address the real threat he was facing. Failure to act in such cases makes the authorities equally responsible as the perpetrators,” insisted Balais-Serrano. Mr. Khan has now filed another complaint on 15 May 2014 immediately after the attempt of abduction.

Human rights defenders are often at risk because of the sensitive matters they work on. Extrajudicial killings and abduction by state security forces has been on a steep rise, which has been used to intimidate and silence human rights defenders. ASK’s reports indicate that there have been 74 alleged extrajudicial killings by state security forces since January 2014.[1]

Given this violent context, FORUM-ASIA called on the Government to immediately take all measures possible to protect Mr. Khan and ensure that those who attempted to abduct him are held accountable The Government must also address the larger issue of continued impunity of security forces and refrain from aiding or abetting these heinous acts. “The Government has the explicit responsibility to protect and ensure the security of human rights defenders. This repressive attitude and complacence of the Government is a serious threat to democracy and progress of the State,” concluded Balais-Serrano.

Background of the attempted abduction:

Mr. Khan left his office at 5:10 pm on 15 May, 2014 and stepped into a rickshaw. When the rickshaw began moving, a white microbus parked across the street briefly followed the rickshaw before overtaking it and coming to a stop in front of it, blocking its path. The microbus was carrying 5-6 men of approximately 30 years of age. Mr. Khan, sensitive to potential dangers after receiving numerous threats in recent weeks, immediately disembarked from the rickshaw and ran the approximately 30 meters back to his office. The microbus departed almost immediately.


FORUM-ASIA is a regional human rights group with 47 member organisations in 16 countries across Asia. With offices in Bangkok, Jakarta and Geneva, FORUM-ASIA addresses key areas of human rights violations in the region, including freedoms of expression, assembly and association, human rights defenders, and democratisation.

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