As the Government
of Bangladesh is about to present a bill to Parliament on Sunday
to sanction torture and unlawful killings by army personnel over
the last few months, Amnesty International calls upon all Members
of Parliament in Bangladesh to oppose the bill.
"Bangladeshi parliamentarians must not allow such a severe
blow to the future of human rights safeguards in the country,"
the international human rights organization said.
The "Joint Drive Indemnity Bill 2003" will be presented
to Parliament on 26 January. If it is passed, no civil or criminal
procedures can be invoked against "disciplinary forces"
or any government official for "arrests, raid, interrogation
and [other] steps taken" between 16 October 2002 and 9 January
"It is now up to parliamentarians to demonstrate their commitment
to the future of human rights in Bangladesh by opposing this bill,"
Amnesty International continued. "If passed, it will provide
impunity to army personnel for the death of at least 40 people after
their alleged torture in army custody."
Everyone in Bangladesh has the right to a remedy against human rights
violations and to truth and justice. This right should not be violated.
Bangladeshi parliamentarians are now facing a formidable human rights
challenge. They must follow their own conscience and seek to safeguard
the human rights of the people they represent rather than rubber
stamping the bill.
Far from acting to demonstrate its intention to observe its human
rights obligations by withdrawing the "Joint Drive Indemnity
Ordinance 2003", the Government of Bangladesh is seeking to
enact it as law by putting it before Parliament. 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.
Following the issuance of the ordinance, over 40,000 army personnel
deployed during this period under "Operation Clean Heart"
to curb criminal activity and establish law and order began to return
to their barracks.
The ordinance was issued by the President on 9 January and became
effective from that date, but it can cease to have effect if Parliament,
through a resolution, disapproves it. It can also be automatically
repealed if Parliament does not pass the bill within 30 days (from
More information can be found on Amnesty International's web site:
Please also note our previous public statement on Bangladesh: "Impunity
for the army unacceptable" ASA 13/005/2003 from 17 January
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