Abdullah Amaan Azmi, eldest son of Professor Ghulam Azam who died in custody having been sentenced to life imprisonment by the almost universally condemned Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), has now been missing for 2 full years, a victim of Enforced Disappearance at the hands of the Government of Bangladesh.
As appointed Counsel, Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers further calls for his immediate release, and further calls for the Government of Bangladesh to adhere to its obligations under domestic and international law.
Azmi was abducted by the Bangladesh State Security Services at approximately 22:00 on 22 August 2016.
It is contemptible that 2-years on further calls for his release must be made.
To recap, at approximately 22:00 on 22 August 2016, more than thirty plain clothed men, claiming to be from the Detective Branch of the Bangladesh Police force stormed the family residence in the Moghbazar area of Dhaka.
Officers cordoned off the entire street before breaking down the door to force entry, blindfolding and severely beating the caretaker of the property, to such an extent that he was rendered unconscious.
Azmi’s 82-year old mother, his wife, and his 2 youngest children (both under the age of four) were present in the house at the time of the abduction, all of whom were threatened, and put in a state of fear.
At the time of the abduction, no warrant was produced by the officers, and no cause for arrest was given; further, at no time during the arrest, or in the 2 years that have now elapsed, has any information been given to anyone regarding his whereabouts, nor has his actual arrest been acknowledged by the Bangladesh Security Services.
Then, as is the case now, there are very real concerns about his safety and his treatment.
It again ought to be borne in mind that such detention is contrary to the Constitution of Bangladesh, its Criminal Code, and the wider State obligations of Bangladesh given the various international treaties to which it is party, and to which it purports to respect.
Azmi, must, at the very minimum, be allowed access to legal counsel and be brought before a competent and independent tribunal to have his detention reviewed.
Currently, he is one of the hundreds of victims of Enforced Disappearance in today’s Bangladesh; a country that no longer even constitutes a passing resemblance to a democracy, with authoritarian rule growing almost daily.
In only the past 3 weeks, students have found themselves arrested for nothing other than criticising policy and seeking change. Such actions are not an offence, they are a fundamental right and freedom for all whom reside in a democracy, something the Government of Bangladesh appears committed to preventing.
Azmi prior to his abduction, was active on social media, calling for an end to the mass human rights violations in Bangladesh and demanding that those responsible for such offences were held to account. A clear parallel can be drawn between that which happened two years ago, and that which continues to happen now.
It is recalled that on 24 February 2017, the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances demanded that the Government of Bangladesh “…act now to halt an increasing number of enforced disappearances in the country”, and to immediately reveal the whereabouts of those missing.
The demand was ignored then as it remains ignored today, as are the demands of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, and the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.
The Government of Bangladesh can manipulate and obfuscate all that it wants, the reality of the position is clear, and that reality is supported by all relevant individuals, groups, and stakeholders internationally. It is only the Government of Bangladesh that seeks to deny the truth of the matters, its position does not garner support internationally.
As Counsel instructed by the Azmi family, Guernica 37 calls for his immediate release; further, it calls for the British Government to publicly condemn the human rights violations being committed with impunity and the all but complete erosion of democracy in Bangladesh, as we request the same of the British Labour Party, the Commonwealth, and the European Parliament.
It simply cannot be maintained that a Government, party, or group, that purports to have human rights and individual freedoms at the heart of its policies, can rest in ignorance of that which is occurring in a trade, political, diplomatic, and Commonwealth partner.
Azmi, is an innocent civilian who has previously served his country with distinction for 30-years, in his capacity as a celebrated Army Officer, attaining the rank of Brigadier General before being dismissed without reason and without notice by the Awami league Government in June 2009, and who has now, for two years, been a victim of a totalitarian and autocratic State, that, rather than engage in dialogue, seeks to silence its detractors by nefarious and unlawful means.