Amnesty International (AI) Thursday said reports in recent weeks of arrest of the leaders of two outlawed Islamist groups could point to a long-awaited shift in government policy to target the actual perpetrators of bombings in the country rather than conveniently accusing the political opposition, reports UNB.
Police arrested Shaikh Abdur Rahman, the fugitive leader of Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), on 2 March 2006 when he surrendered after a 33-hour siege to his hideout in Sylhet. On 6 March, the deputy leader of Jama'atul Mujahideen and leader of another Islamist group, Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh, Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai, was arrested in Mymensingh district.
"There have been persistent allegations about these groups' involvement in a violent campaign of bomb attacks in recent years," the AI noted.
The international human-right watchdog said there have also been frequent allegations in the media that some politicians with close links to the ruling parties had made frustrating effort to stem the rising tide of violence created by these groups.
The AI said it is the responsibility of the government to investigate anyone against whom there are allegations of involvement in the bombings with a view to establishing the truth.
However, it said such investigation must at all times conform to international human-right standards and be free from any act of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. "The investigation must extend to anyone in the government or linked to the ruling coalition parties likely to have provided political shelter to the bombers for personal or political gains."
If those investigated can be charged, they should be brought to justice in compliance with international fair-trial standards, without recourse to the death penalty, the AI pleaded.
According to media reports, the AI said, the government has now admitted that these Islamist groups have also been involved in a number of other human-right abuses. These include attacks against individuals known to Amnesty International as human rights defenders.
The revelation by the government on 9 March 2006 that Jama'atul Mujahideen had been responsible for the attacks against Dhaka University professor Humayun Azad and Rajshahi University professor Yunus in 2004 opens a new chapter in addressing these right abuses. However, it also "highlights the government's unexplained failure so far to fully investigate these and other attacks against human rights defenders and to bring those involved in the attacks to justice".
Similarly, it said, the government's recent statement that the bomb blasts in four cinemas in Mymensingh in December 2002 were carried out by the Jama'atul Mujahideen group must be seen as a clear vindication of those writers, academics and opposition politicians who were subjected to arrest and ill-treatment on allegation of involvement in the bomb blasts.
The Amnesty International had at that time considered the detention of prominent writer Shahriar Kabir, university professor Muntassir Mamoon, Awami League politician Saber Hossain Chowdhury, and journalist Enamul Haque Chowdhury following the Mymensingh bomb blasts to be politically motivated.