Bangladesh: Human Rights Lawyer Mantu Ghosh

Re: Human Rights Lawyer Mantu Ghosh

To: Prime Minister Hasina

From: John Cotter

Date: 2010-11-11

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada is expressing concern about the safety and treatment within the Bangladesh legal system of a colleague in the fight for human rights: Mr. Mantu Ghosh. We are asking that he be released from custody and that all charges against him be dropped. We are further asking that an investigation be launched into the circumstances of his arrests and harassment, and the failures of the Bangladesh legal system to protect him and to curb the actions of the police and court system directed against him.

The Dhaka Metropolitan Police arrested Mr. Ghosh over three months ago on charges that have been fabricated. He is a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Bangladesh and an advisor of the Garment Trade Union Center, which looks after the interests of garment workers in Bangladesh. The Dhaka Metropolitan Police have fabricated a total of 10 cases against him. He was released on bail on October 11, 2010, due to being seriously ill in custody but he now fears re-arrest. This request for release on bail was granted by the Metropolitan Sessions Court of Dhaka after it was rejected by the Chief Metropolitan Judicial Magistrate’s Court the same day.

LRWC hereby reiterates the detailed statement of facts pertaining to Mr. Ghosh’s situation that has been compiled by the Asian Human Rights Commission, the NGO that looks after the rights of all persons, including human rights lawyers and defenders, in various Asian nations, including Bangladesh. This statement is as follows:

“At around 1:15am on 31 July 2010, twelve persons knocked on the door of the house of Mr. Mantu Ghosh, a lawyer by profession and also a member of the central committee of the Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB), (House No. 306/1 Notun Pal Para of the Narayanganj district town, around 25 kilometers far from the city of Dhaka). The members of the family, who were sleeping at that time, became scared of the unwanted knocking. However, following continuous knocks Mr. Mantu opened the door and saw around twelve plain clothed persons who were heavily armed. One of the twelve persons introduced himself as Sub Inspector (SI) Mr. Khondokar Mustafizur Rahman of the Gulshan police station and claimed that the others were from the Detective Branch (DB) Police. SI Mustafizur asked Mantu to go with the police by saying ‘We need to take you to the higher authorities.’ The police raided his house without any warrant for search and seized his mobile phone at the same time.

The police took Mantu to the Office of the Deputy Commissioner of the DB of the DMP at 36 Minto Road of Ramna area in Dhaka at around 2am. They put Mantu in a detention cell and told him to sleep. The police did not explain why Mantu was brought to the police cell and whether he was arrested in any specific charge or not.

At 8am several police officers took Mantu to a different room to interrogate him. The police mainly asked him about his personal involvements in the readymade garment factory workers’ movements for increasing wages; his travel records and relationship with neighbouring countries, particularly with Indian; and his political party’s influence and position on the workers’ movement. By around 12 noon the police took him to the Chief Metropolitan Judicial Magistrate’s Court of Dhaka under a case, which was registered with the Gulshan police station of the DMP as FIR (First Information Report) No. 89 (7) 2010 under Sections 147, 148, 149, 380, 435,448, 353, 332, 427, 109 and 114 of the Penal Code-1860 and Section 3 and 6 of the Explosive Substance Act-1908. SI Mustafizur submitted a petition seeking 10 days police remand for Mantu while Mantu’s lawyer applied for bail. The Court granted 2 days remand under jail custody instead of police remand and rejected the petition for bail.

On the following day, another police station – Tejgaon Industrial Area police – submitted separate petitions seeking Mantu to be arrested under three different cases. The three cases were as follows:

1. FIR No. 36 (7) 2010 under Sections 4 and 5 of the Speedy Trial Act-2000;

2. FIR No. 37 (7) 2010 under Sections 4 and 5 of the Speedy Trial Act-2000; and 3. FIR No. 38 (7) 2010 under Sections 147, 186, 353, 323, and 427 of the Penal Code-1860.

The Courts granted all the petitions of the Tejgaon Industrial Area police to place Mantu under arrest in the above cases. In the first and second cases Mantu was sent to the police remand for 1 day each while in the third case he was held on police remand for 3 days (although the police sought for 7 days in each case).

On 3 August, Mantu Ghosh was also arrested by the Adabor police station of the DMP in two cases:

1. FIR No. 30, dated 30 July 2010, under Sections 147, 149, 427, 186, 353, 332, 427, 186 and 333 of the Penal Code-1860;

2. FIR No. 31, dated 30 July 2010, under Sections 4 and 5 of the Speedy Trial Act-2000.

The Adabor police held Mantu on remand for 3 days under FIR No. 30 and for 1 day under FIR No. 31 Several police officers other than the Investigating Officers (IO) of the cases of the Adabor Police interrogated Mantu while he was under police remand. The police officers accused him of associating with some external players who might have had interests in destabilizing the readymade garment sector of Bangladesh during the police remand.”

Altogether Mantu was under police remand for 9 days in five different cases. During this time, the police allegedly treated Mantu inhumanly and degraded him in the name of interrogation.

Following the arbitrary attitude of the police on 5 August Mantu lodged a Writ Petition (No. 6379/2010) with the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh challenging the actions of the police and fearing torture in custody. A High Court Division Bench comprising Justice A H M Shamsuddin Chowdhury and Justice Sheikh Md. Zakir Hossain ordered the police not to torture and to provide medical facilities during the period of police remand.”

On 8 August, the Ashulia police station of Dhaka Mantu was arrested under the following pending cases that were registered in the month of June:

1. FIR No. 48 (6) 2010, under Sections 143, 149, 448, 323, 380, 427, 506, 109 and 114 of the Penal Code-1860;

2. FIR No. 52 (6) 2010, under Sections 143, 332, 333, 353,307,379 and 427 of the Penal Code-1860;

3. FIR No. 54 (6) 2010, under Sections 143, 448, 323, 325, 307, 436, 379, 380 and 427 of the Penal Code-1860; and

4. FIR No. 55 (6) 2010, under Sections 143, 332, 333, 353 and 427 of the Penal Code-1860.

On 23 August, the Gulshan police demanded that Mantu be held on police remand for the second time under FIR No. 89 (7) 2010 for 7 days. The Chief Metropolitan Judicial Magistrate’s Court of Dhaka, on 9 September, granted 3 days remand for interrogation by rejecting the bail petition of Mantu’s lawyers for the second time. The same Court rejected Mantu’s bail petitions on four more occasions – on 19, 20, 26 and 29 September regarding the same case. At the time of refusing to grant bail, the Magistrate did not explain the reasons of rejecting the petitions.

Regarding the three cases fabricated against Mantu by the Tejgaon Industrial Area police, petitions seeking Mantu’s bail was rejected by the Court on 7 August. On 24 August, the Magistrate granted bail in two of the three cases, FIR No. 36 (7) 2010 and FIR No. 37 (7) 2010. In the third case, 38 (7) 2010, the Magistrate rejected Mantu’s bail petitions on three occasions – on 12 and 25 August and on 3 September. On the fourth occasion, on 9 September, the Court granted bail to Mantu.

Regarding the two cases fabricated by the Adabor police, Mantu’s bail petitions were granted on 18 August. And regarding the four cases fabricated by the Ashulia police, bail petitions were accepted on 22 August.

Mantu had been sick in jail while he was detained in the case fabricated by the Gulshan police. On 11 October, his lawyers submitted a “special bail petition” to the Metropolitan Sessions Court of Dhaka after having been rejected from the Chief Metropolitan Judicial Magistrate’s Court on the same day as a result of Mantu’s deteriorating health condition. The Metropolitan Sessions Judge granted bail on a bond of BDT 50,000.00 (USD 715) and Mantu was freed in the evening.”

The Bangladesh Police have a bad reputation for fabricating cases against persons and harassing the detainees under ‘police remand’, which is synonymous with torture and extortion. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has previously exposed the legal procedure regarding interrogating detainees under ‘police remand’ (For further details, please see: AHRC-UAC-167-2010). In Bangladesh neither the police nor the Magistrates follow the laws and rules regarding arrest and ‘remand’, which has widened the paths for the police to seek remand for whomever or whichever days they want. It happens despite the fact that there are directives by the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh that a person can only be remanded for not more than three days in a case, if the police are unable to complete their investigation of a particular case within 24 hours on reasonable grounds that ca n be satisfactorily acceptable to the Magistrates.

LRWC has as its special purpose bringing to light instances of human rights lawyers and other defenders being persecuted for engaging in their important work. Mr. Ghosh’s particular political views are irrelevant to the fundamental facts (1) that he has engaged in lawful activities that seek to protect the rights of exploited garment workers in Bangladesh, (2) that these charges are fabricated, and (3) that the police in Dhaka have a directed animus against him which is demonstrated by his repeated arrests at their hands.

LRWC notes that Bangladesh on September 6, 2000, ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It has stated a reservation to the ICCPR as to trying people in absentia who are fugitives from justice, and it declares that due to resource constraints it cannot necessarily segregate prisons or provide counsel for accused persons. Even so, Bangladesh has stated no reservation as to the ICCPR requirement that all ratifying states respect a wide range of personal rights and rights within the context of a prosecution by legally-constituted authorities, including that “[i]n the determination of any criminal charge against him, or of his rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law” (Article 14.1).

What Mr. Ghosh has undergone clearly fails the fair and minimal standards set forth in the ICCPR in Article 14.1 and in other provisions of the Covenant and the fair and minimal standards that characterize judicial standards worldwide that constitute customary international law – standards that are accepted by countries with varying political and cultural histories. The actions of the police in Mr. Ghosh’s case have been arbitrary and capricious, have clearly been directed at him as a human rights lawyer, and are designed to intimidate him and his colleagues and supporters. LRWC condemns these actions on the part of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police and the court system.

LRWC calls for the release of Mr. Mantu Ghosh, for the withdrawal of all charges and for a full investigation into the police and court authorities responsible for the bringing of these fabricated charges and harassment.