Custodial Deaths, Torture, and Unfair Trials after the 2009 Bangladesh Rifles Mutiny
On February 25-26, 2009, members of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) staged a mutiny against their commanding officers. During this mutiny, some of the BDR mutineers engaged in serious violence, including, allegedly, sexual violence against wives of army officers and others. Over the course of the two days, 74 people were killed and many more were injured. After negotiating an end to the mutiny, the authorities arrested more than 6,000 BDR members from different units around the country, badly mistreating many of them.
“The Fear Never Leaves Me” documents the serious abuses that have accompanied the government’s response to the mutiny. More than 40 suspected mutineers have died in custody and many more were tortured. Bangladesh’s notorious Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) is believed to have perpetrated many of the abuses.
While mutineers responsible for crimes should be held accountable, the suspects have been denied fair trial rights, hundreds of them tried at a time in proceedings lacking basic due process guarantees. To date, some 4,000 soldiers have been found guilty in mass trials before military tribunals; 847 soldiers also face charges under the Bangladesh Criminal Code and are being prosecuted in a single mass civilian trial. Some face the death penalty. Most of the accused were summarily arrested without a warrant. Many were detained without charge for several months. Most have been denied proper access to lawyers and have had inadequate or no disclosure of the evidence against them.
Human Rights Watch calls for a halt to the prosecutions until the government establishes an independent investigative and prosecutorial task force with sufficient expertise, authority, and resources to rigorously investigate and prosecute crimes committed during the mutiny. All convictions should be reviewed. The government should also investigate all allegations of custodial death and torture and take appropriate action, including against RAB members, to ensure that the government’s stated zero-tolerance policy toward extrajudicial killings and torture is finally realized.