This is abhorrent news, no matter the turns of fortune in a man’s life, no matter the moral worth of a cause, no matter the government’s writ on the matter. That Mr. S Q Chowdhury is in opposition to the sitting government remains uncontested; that he is wanted for war crimes remains an accusation, yet to be incontrovertibly proven; that he deserves to be treated in a humane manner is, and will remain, a substantive and procedural requirement that this government, any government, must meet in order to be considered a legitimate agent to lead and satiate the needs and interests of a people.
On December 16th, Mr. Chowdhury, a member of the BNP standing committee, was arrested by a contingent of security forces that included the Rapid Action Batallion (RAB), the paramilitary force that is known to have done the government’s militant, murderous, work. He was then brutally tortured in his own apartment, it is alleged by Amnesty International, before being taken into custody for more than five days. The ostensible reason? That, in the first instance, he is involved in an arson attack in which one person died, and only then that he stands accused for acts and facts entertained nearly 40 years ago–all those things that are now being thrown around in the name of war crimes.
The government claim is that he is being interrogated for his connection to a murder case. Never mind that it could never take 5 days to interrogate one person’s connection to another person’s murder. This, rather obvious fact, gave way to other charges for which he was remanded to a longer term in custody. This is baldly the circumstances that stand behind torture–detention and disappearance–to which the government, its paramilitary force and the police have acceded.
Contrary to the claims consistent with due process, the allegations brought against the government include charges that Mr. Chowdhury was tortured at his apartments with instruments designed for that purpose, that he repeatedly received electric shocks to his testicles and that he was tortured to the point where he lost consciousness, only to be revived in order to be tortured again.
Amnesty International, a leading global human rights advocacy organization, has found on the matter that Mr. Chowdhury deserves medical treatment and humane protection against the government:
“The Bangladeshi government must ensure that Salauddin Quader Chowdhury is protected and treated properly and that these very serious allegations of torture are investigated.”
“In particular, the authorities must ensure that he has access to the necessary specialist medical attention, including by independent doctors.”
To show the seriousness of the allegations, Amnesty has published the context behind the matter, a treatment of the affair that must give the casual and interested reader of Bangladeshi politics pause:
“Chowdhury was arrested on 16 December in connection with a case in which a private car was set alight in Dhaka on 26 June, killing a passenger. On 19 December, the International Crimes Tribunal, a Bangladeshi court, issued an arrest warrant against him for alleged crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War.”
“According to reports received by Amnesty International, a combined force of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Detective Branch (DB) police, and the Directorate-General Foreign Intelligence (DGFI) arrested Chowdhury in the early hours of 16 December at an apartment in the Banani neighborhood in Dhaka.”
“Amnesty International is deeply concerned about the allegations, and considers the reported torture of Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, as of any other human being, wholly unacceptable.”
The Inspector General of the Police Hasan Mahmud Khondakar, of course, denies the allegations. But as to proof that the government is not engaging in such acts? Nothing that merits any standard of proof, as such. The only demonstrable proof that due process is being done remains the government’s insistence that it has not engaged in acts of torture. However, normative codes that the current government itself sponsors, requires that the government produce material evidence to the contrary of allegations made against it. That there is torture being conducted is, according to the government’s own writ by the Constitution, a claim that merits attention. The government must demonstrate that it is not engaging in torture. Thus, the strict and frequent denials of the sitting government against torture truly merit no righteous claim apart from cheap talk.
Interestingly, a quick check in the national media shows that the story has stopped running in the main and popular presses. Whether there is at work a government stricture against pushing this news will always remain an open question; however, it is hardly a surprising turn.
However, international news outlets like Britain’s Guardian newspaper has run with this news on the heels of the recent Wikileaks revelations that the British government has been training the RAB death squads in a move to contravene U.S law that denies foreign support for known paramilitary forces.
Citing the Amnesty International allegations on the facts, the Guardian reported: