is deeply concerned that the Bangladeshi Government's recent decision
to issue an "indemnity ordinance" will lead to a climate
of impunity in the country. The ordinance gives immunity from prosecution
to armed forces 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.
"These are serious human rights violations which must not under
any circumstances be condoned," Amnesty International said
"Between October and January at least 40 people died after
their arrest and alleged torture in army custody. The ordinance
means that no army personnel can be investigated or brought to justice
for these deaths. This is unacceptable," the international
human rights organization added.
"Torture goes against the best aspects of the country's culture.
It tarnishes the country's image," Amnesty International said.
With this ordinance, the Government of Bangladesh has indicated
that it is not willing to respect its obligations under the Convention
against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights to respect and ensure the rights of the people in Bangladesh.
This ordinance denies the victims of torture and unlawful killings,
and their families, the right to a remedy, to truth and justice,
to which they are entitled.
Amnesty International urges all Governments to repeal any legal
provision that afford impunity to human rights violators. Torture
is universally condemned and prohibited under international law
in all circumstances.
The Government of Bangladesh should withdraw the ordinance and should
not put it before Parliament for debate. If the ordinance is brought
before Parliament for debate on 26 January, Amnesty International
hopes that all Members of Parliament will rise to this human rights
challenge and refrain from enacting it as law.
Amnesty International continues to call on the Bangladeshi Government
to establish and independent, impartial and competent authority
to investigate all deaths reportedly resulting from torture and
other allegations of torture in custody and bring to justice all
those responsible whatever their rank or position.
Operation "Clean Heart" started on 17 October as a campaign
against crime carried out by the army. It was the government's response
to growing concern within Bangladesh and the international community
about the continuing deterioration in law and order, including a
rise in criminal activity, murder, rape and acid throwing.
However, there were mounting allegations of torture in army custody
during this operation. At least 40 men died after being arrested
by the army. The government announced that the deaths were from
heart failure but families said victims had been tortured to death.
On 9 January, the President issued "The Joint Drive Indemnity
Ordinance 2003" which provides impunity to "members of
the joint forces and any person designated to carry out responsibilities
in aid of civil administration during the period between 16 October
2002 and 9 January 2003". Under the ordinance, no civil or
criminal procedures can be invoked against "disciplinary forces"
or any government official for "arrests, raid, interrogation
and [other] steps taken" during this period.
The Minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs was cited
on 9 January in media reports as telling journalists that "the
government regretted the deaths, but they had no alternative to
rewarding the soldiers who had helped the authorities to restore
law and order."
The Government is apparently seeking to put the ordinance before
Parliament on 26 January in the form of a bill.
For more information please call Amnesty International's press office
in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566
Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW. web: http://www.amnesty.org