Humam Quader Chowdhury Released After 7 Months in Secretive Detention

By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

DHAKA, Bangladesh – Humam Quader Chowdhury was released on March 2, 2017 near his family home in Dhaka. Chowdhury was taken by unmarked men on August 4, 2016 and allegedly held in secret detention by Bangladeshi authorities. Chowdhury is one of two other men who were taken in separate incidents last August, though the others have yet to be released.

Bangladesh security officers stand in front of the central jail in Dhaka in 2013. Photo courtesy of Reuters.

All three men are sons of prominent opposition politicians, who were tried and convicted by the International Crimes Tribunal meant to prosecute war crimes as a result of Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence. The men have been denied access to lawyers and communications with their families.

In early March, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances called on the Bangladesh government to reveal the whereabouts of the men. Though Chowdhury’s release is a step in the right direction, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have both voiced concerns regarding the welfare of those remaining in captivity and urge the government to either charge or release the detainees. The government denies any responsibility, though family members of the victims cite several sources confirming a connection between the takings and Bangladeshi security forces.

Humam Quader Chowdhury cannot remember where he was held, family members have reported. Human rights organizations warn of the government’s practices, as these are not the first allegations of government sponsored disappearances. The international community is keeping an eye on the status of the other two detainees.

For more information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – Bangladesh: Man Released From Long Secret Detention – 2 March, 2017

Amnesty International – Bangladesh: Man Released From Long Secret Detention – 2 March 2017

Dhaka Tribune – Hummam Quader cannot remember anything about abduction – 3 March, 2017

Aljazeera – UN demands Dhaka action on enforced disappearances – 24 February, 2017

Bangladesh Executes Financial Backer of Islamist Party for War Crimes

by Zachary Lucas
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Mir Quasem Ali, a former media tycoon, was executed after being convicted of war crimes during the Bangladesh’s war for independence in 1971. Ali was a financier to the largest Islamist Party in the country, the Jamaat-e-Islami party.

Mir Quasem Ali was Tried and Convicted of War Crimes in 2014 (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

Ali was formally arrested in 2012 and charged in mid 2013. The charges involved murder and torture, including the abduction and murder of a young man in a torture chamber. Throughout the trial Ali proclaimed his innocence and stated that the charges were unjustifiable. Ali was found guilty on 8 charges, two of which carried the death sentence, in 2014 before the International Crimes Tribunal that was set up to try war criminals from the 1971 conflict.

A five-member appellate court upheld the decision of the trial court and the sentences. The Supreme Court rejected a final appeal earlier in the week. Ali did not seek presidential pardon which requires an admission of guilt. Ali was hanged at 10:30 PM on Saturday. His body was driven from the prison in an ambulance early Sunday morning to his home village in Manikganj for burial. Family members had requested his body be buried in Dhaka but government officials refused.

Following the execution, a security operation was staged to prevent violence. Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said that security operations were underway to keep the peace including deployment of paramilitary border guards and more police in Dhaka. The opposition party proclaimed the trial to be “political vengeance” and stated they would stage protests on Monday.

Both the Jamaat-e-Islami party and human rights experts around the world have questions the integrity of the International Crimes Tribunal set up shortly after the current Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, came to power. Ali, who was the former head of the Diganta Media Corporation, is the latest in members of the opposition party to be executed at the tribunal. Since 2010, six opposition leaders have been executed, five of whom were from the Jamaat-e-Islami party. As a total, 24 people have been sentence to death at the tribunal.

The war in 1971 began when self-determination groups in East Pakistan revolted against Pakistani leadership which led to armed conflict. The war became a hot spot during the Cold War as the United States, former Soviet Union, and People’s Republic of China were involved in the conflict. The end of the conflict led to Bangladesh gaining independence from Pakistan.

Prime Minister Hasina says the conflict left 3 million dead and over 400,000 women were raped. Pakistani forces and Jamaat-e-Islami supported militias were accused of systematic executions and rape during the war. Pro-Pakistani militias were accused of setting up detention centers were liberation supporters were tortured, including one at Chittagong, that Ali was accused of running.

For more information, please see:

BBC — Bangladesh hangs Islamist Mir Quasem Ali for 1971 war crimes — 4 September 2016

The Daily Star –Review binned, death stays for Quasem — 30 August 2016

The Hindu —  Bangladesh executes Jamaat leader Mir Quasem Ali — 4 September 2016

Time — Bangladesh Court Upholds Death Sentence of Islamist Leader Convicted of War Crimes — 30 August 2016

Yahoo — Bangladesh executes 5th Islamist party leader for 1971 war — 3 September 2016