Lincoln’s Inn Barrister Still Missing, After Being Seized by Bangladesh Authorities
Today marks the fifth anniversary of the abduction of Bangladeshi barrister Mir Ahmad Bin Quasem. The British trained lawyer who has also been called to the Bar of England and Wales by the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, was forcibly abducted from his home by members of the Bangladesh Security forces.
On 5 August/9 August 2016, Mir Ahmad bin Quasem, known to his friends and family as Arman, was taken away by government agents in front of his wife and two young daughters. He has not been seen since.
For the past five year international lawyers have attempted to bring pressure on the Bangladeshi government to release Mir Ahmad bin Quasem. Today, they renew their call on the Bangladeshi regime as well as those with the power to influence them to look to their consciences and to work to allow Mr. bin Quasem to return home to his wife and two young daughters.
On Al Jazeera’s Head to Head Programme first broadcast on 1 March 2019, Foreign Adviser to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Mr. Gowher Rizvi was interviewed by Mehdi Hassan and was asked about Ahmad’s case (see here) and he provided assurances that all allegations of enforced disappearance would be properly investigated and that he would personally assist in Mr. Bin Quasem’s case. Despite such assurances, it is deeply regrettable, that Mr. Rizvi has failed to respond to multiple emails requesting his assistance.
Ahmad’s abduction is just one incident in a concerning tally of human rights abuses perpetrated by the Government of Bangladesh. The International Community and the UK political class must stand up against the repression by the ruling Awami League regime of the people of Bangladesh.
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has designated Bangladesh a human rights country of concern. The United Nations, along with virtually every credible national and international human rights NGO, has highlighted the persistent and credible allegations of human rights abuses. The Government of Bangladesh operates under a system of what U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy described to in October 2017 as condoning “State Sponsored Criminality in Bangladesh”. The Government’s response, according to Senator’s statement on the Congressional Record, constituted “blanket denials, obfuscation, and even falsehoods”. He referred to the situation in Bangladesh as one of great concern considering “enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, unfair trials, extrajudicial executions, and other flagrant violations of the rule of law by the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed.”
Ahmad Bin Quasem
Ahmad Bin Quasem, or Arman as he is known to friends and family, is a barrister who was representing his father Mir Quasem Ali before the International Crimes Tribunal (“ICT”) which was set up in 2010 by the ruling Awami League and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Mir Quasem Ali was convicted by the ICT in 2014 and sentenced to death becoming the seventh opposition leader to be given a capital sentence, amplifying local and international concerns that the ICT has been used to further political objectives. The appeal hearings were ongoing when Arman was abducted by the government. The UN Officer of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had at that time called for the conviction to be quashed and a retrial ordered.
An associate of Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina confirmed that Mr Bin Quasem’s enforced disappearance by the security services was authorised by the Prime Minister and in secret recordings of a high ranking RAB Officer obtained by Sveriges Radio the Officer explained how enforced disappearances operate and the fact that the fate of those seized is decided by those ‘high up’ within the government.
Late on 5 August 2016, a group of around 8 men came to the apartment where Mr Bin Quasem was living with his wife and two young daughters. Four of the men were wearing RAB (Rapid Action Battalion) uniforms. They introduced themselves as members of the RAB and sat with Mr Bin Quasem in the living room where they asked him basic questions about the living arrangements at the apartment and from whom it had been rented.
The abduction occurred at around 11pm on the 9th of August 2016 when a group of 8 or 9 men attended the apartment and demanded that Arman’s wife and sister tell them where he was. Mr Bin Quasem then went to the door, and the men told him that he had to come with them. They then gave Mr Bin Quasem 5 minutes with his family then began banging on the door again. The man who was in charge of the group gave a hand signal and the other men stormed into the apartment. Despite Mr Bin Quasem’s wife and sister trying to shield him from the men and prevent them from taking him, the men pulled them away and grabbed him, dragging him to the stairs and out of the house. Mr Bin Quasem was placed in a mini-bus which was driven away. This abduction followed the exact modus operandi of other abductions by the security forces in Bangladesh.
Barrister, Church Court Chambers
Barrister, Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers
Note: Toby Cadman and Michael Polak act as Counsel to Mir Ahmad Bin Quasem and his family and have filed Communications with the UN Special Procedures Branch in Geneva.
Please see www.freearman.com for updates on the campaign.
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