By Kristy Tridhavee
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
DHAKA, Bangladesh – Tasneem Khalil, a journalist with Human Rights Watch (HRW), CNN, and The Daily Star, has accused theBangladesh military of torturing him in retaliation for his media activity. In May 2007, the Directorate General Forces of Intelligence arrested Tasneem Khalil in his home and transferred him to a torture cell.
Tasneem Khalil recently shared his experience in the Bangladesh torture cell. In his report to HRW, Tasneem Khalil wrote, “…all of them started hitting the table with hands and sticks and started shouting at me. ‘How dare you write against our brothers in RAB? You are a burden on society. You are an immoral, unethical insect, an anti-state criminal.’ Someone came around the table and started punching me on my head again.”
After hours of beatings, Tasneem Khalil agreed to write a confession. When his blindfold was taken off, he saw for the first time the room he was being held in. He reported: “The room I was in was a torture cell. It was a small room with no windows, one doorway with a wooden door, and a second grill, like in a prison. The room was soundproofed with a wooden wall covered with small holes, like in an old recording studio. There were two CCTV cameras in the corners attached to the ceiling. There was a fan. I was sitting in front of a table and three batons were on the table, along with some stationery. One was a wooden baton, about a meter long. The other two were covered with black plastic. Poking out of the end of these two were metal wires which appeared to fill the plastic covers. … Then I glanced behind me and I saw what looked like a metal bed frame. It was the same size as a normal single bed, but it was placed on a platform with steps up to it. The bed had straps fitted at the top and bottom, presumably for tying people on to it. There was a wheel to change the angle of the bed to lift it up or down. There were spikes at the top of the bed. Right beside that there were ropes fitted to the ceilings with rubber loops for wrists to go through.”
Tasneem Khalil was released after 22 hours in captivity. International and national authorities pressed the Bangladesh interim government to free him. Tasneem Khalil then went into hiding for a month before international authorities again pressed Bangladesh leaders to allow him to leave for asylum in Sweden.
Bangladesh is currently under an interim government authorized by a reform agenda. Since January 2007, the interim government has campaigned to eliminate corruption and abuse of political power. However, in the name of reform, the government has used torture and executions to extract information and punish critics of the army’s role as de facto rulers.
HRW urged the country to make human rights a priority. Brad Adams, Asia Director of HRW, said, “While few would dispute that corruption, organized crime, politicization of the bureaucracy and political violence had to be addressed in Bangladesh, the interim government must realize that reform cannot be built on midnight knocks on the door and torture. A peaceful democratic society requires respect for basic rights.”
HRW also has questioned the motivation and purposes of the Bangladesh interim government. Brad Adams furthered stated, “The security forces have been arbitrarily detaining and torturing people, but there have been no serious attempts at holding those responsible for these criminal acts to account. Why hasn’t the government made the protection of Bangladeshis from this scourge a priority? Are they reformers, or do they just say they are reformers?”
For more information, please see:
HRW – The Torture of Tasneem Khalil: How the Bangladesh Government Abuses its Powers under a State of Emergency
HRW – Bangladesh: Tortured Journalist Describes Surviving Military Beatings –14 February 2008
News Report India – Military Torture of Bangladesh Journalist Alleged – 14 February 2008
Reuters India– Bangladeshi Tells of 22 Hours of Torture – 14 February 2008