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UN experts concerned new law in Bangladesh may compromise detainees’ rights

UN experts concerned new law in Bangladesh may compromise detainees’ rights

Two United Nations human rights experts today called on the Government of Bangladesh to ensure that its recent efforts to crack down on crime do not forfeit the crucial rights of detainees or obstruct humanitarian enquiries into allegations of ill-treatment.

Asma Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and Theo van Boven, Special Rapporteur on torture, said they are concerned that if the "Joint Drive Indemnity Ordinance 2003” is approved by Parliament on Sunday, soldiers will not be investigated or brought to justice for the deaths in custody and the alleged torture of detainees as part of a recent crackdown on crime in the country.

In a communiqué sent to the Government yesterday, the experts called on the Government to ensure that all allegations of torture and death in custody are promptly, independently and thoroughly investigated by a body capable of prosecuting perpetrators in accordance with relevant international standards.

Several people are reported to have been tortured or killed during the crackdown -- known as “Operation Clean Heart” – which began last October in response to growing domestic and international concern about increasing lawlessness in Bangladesh.

The ordinance, issued by the President on 9 January, gives immunity from prosecution to armed forces and government officials for their involvement in "any casualty, damage to life and property, violation of rights, physical or mental damage" between 16 October 2002 and 9 January 2003.