- Sheesh. I wrote Tasneem a while ago to congratulate him on his reporting, and to express my concern over his safety. The story below has a happy ending.
London, Friday, May 11, 2007 : Bangladesh’s military-backed care-taker government should immediately release Tasneem Khalil, an investigative journalist and part-time Human Rights Watch consultant, who was detained by security forces late last night, Human Rights Watch said today.
Khalil, 26, is a journalist for the Dhaka-based Daily Star newspaper who conducts research for Human Rights Watch. According to his wife, four men in plainclothes who identified themselves as from the ” joint task force” came to the door after midnight on May 11 in Dhaka, demanding to take Khalil away. They said they were placing Khalil “under arrest” and taking him to the Sangsad Bhavan army camp, outside the parliament building in Dhaka.
“We are extremely concerned about Tasneem Khalil’s safety,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “He has been a prominent voice in Bangladesh for human rights and the rule of law, and has been threatened because of that.”
The men did not offer a warrant or any charges, Khalil’s wife said. Using threatening language, they searched the house and confiscated Khalil’s passport, two computers, documents, and two mobile phones.
“It is an emergency; we can arrest anyone,” one of the men said. Another asked if Khalil suffered from any particular physical ailments. They drove Khalil off in a Pajero jeep.
Khalil is a noted investigative journalist who has published several controversial exposes of official corruption and abuse, particularly by security forces. He assisted Human Rights Watch in research for a 2006 report about torture and extrajudicial killings by Bangladesh security forces.
According to Bangladeshi human rights groups, the army has detained tens of thousands of people since a state of emergency was declared on January 11, 2007. A number of those detained are picked up in the middle of the night, as Khalil was, and then tortured.
In Bangladesh, security forces have long been implicated in torture and extrajudicial killings. The killings have been attributed to members of the army, the police, and the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), an elite anti-crime and anti-terrorism force. The Human Rights Watch report Khalil worked on, Judge, Jury, and Executioner: Torture and Extrajudicial Killings by Bangladesh’s Elite Security Force, focused on abuses by the RAB.
Killings in custody remain a persistent problem in Bangladesh. To date, no military personnel are known to have been held criminally responsible for any of the deaths.
Khalil was called in for questioning by military intelligence last week, apparently as part of the military’s campaign to intimidate independent journalists ahead of May 10, 2007, when the army’s three-month legal mandate for ruling under a state of emergency came to an end.
“The Bangladeshi military should be on notice that its actions are being closely watched by the outside world,” Adams said. “Any harm to Tasneem Khalil will seriously undermine the army’s claims to legitimacy and upholding the rule of law.”
- Happy ending?
Bangladeshi journalist released after daylong interrogation, family says
AP / International Herald Tribune
May 12, 2007
DHAKA, Bangladesh: Bangladeshi authorities have released a journalist, detained hours earlier, who had written about alleged human rights abuses by the country’s security forces, his wife said Saturday.
Tasneem Khalil, a journalist at Dhaka’s Daily Star newspaper, was picked up early Friday from his residence in the capital by four men in plain clothes.
Khalil was released later Friday after being interrogated by intelligence officials, his wife Sharmin Afsana Suchi told The Associated Press.
“Yes, he has returned,” Suchi said.
She declined to say whether he was tortured while he was detained.
A government spokesman could not be reached Saturday to comment on Khalil’s detention or subsequent release.
Journalists in Bangladesh are often threatened, assaulted or even killed for writing about political violence, corruption or organized crime.
At least 11 journalists have been killed and dozens maimed in the South Asian nation since 1997, media rights groups say.
On Friday, Suchi said the men who took away her husband told her they were from the Joint Task Force, an army-led security force used by the military-backed government to fight corruption.
“The men said they were placing Khalil under arrest and taking him to an army camp in Dhaka,” she said.
Zafar Sobhan, an assistant editor at the Daily Star, said Friday that Khalil was held without charge or warrant.
Khalil, 26, also works for New York-based Human Rights Watch and runs his own Web site. His colleagues said he recently posted articles on the site criticizing the army and the security forces for alleged human rights abuses.
The detention sparked off widespread concerns among international media and human rights watchdogs.
Human Rights Watch voiced its concern about Khalil while the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, in a statement on Friday said the detention is an indication of the fragile state of press freedom in Bangladesh.
“We’re alarmed by the circumstances of his detention,” Joel Simon, Executive Director of the CPJ, said in the statement.
Bangladesh has been under a state of emergency since Jan. 11 when street violence over delayed national elections left more than 30 people dead.
According to Bangladeshi human rights groups, the military-backed government has used the emergency powers to arrest thousands of people. They say many of the detainees were picked up at night.