The rights body Odhikar has refused to provide the media with its controversial list of 61 victims of the crackdown on the Hefajat-e Islam’s demonstrations on May 6 though it provided five human rights organisations with those names.
“If we provide the list to the media and they publish it, the information may be misused, putting the security of the victims’ families at risk,” said Taskin Fahmina, Odhikar’s senior researcher and programme coordinator.
She, however, said some of the names and addresses had already been leaked as the law enforcers raided the Odhikar office on August 11 and confiscated office computers and laptops that contained information related to Odhikar’s claim that 61 victims had died in the crackdown.
Since the raid, some of the victims’ families have told Odhikar that they were being watched by law enforcers, Taskin Fahmina added.
Being concerned over their security, Odhikar has sent the list to the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Asian Human Rights Commission and Ain O Salish Kendra.
Since human rights organisations have field-level workers across the country, “we believe they will ensure that the human rights of the victims’ families are not violated,” Fahmina said, adding that Hameeda Hossain, chair of Ain O Salish Kendra, had also been given the list.
Hameeda Hossain told The Daily Star she had not received the list yet because of a technical problem in her e-mail account.
Asked whether Ain O Salish Kendra would share the list with the media, she said, “The list is not ours that we can share, if we get it at all.”
About Hefajat’s claim that it had given the list to Odhikar, as published in a Bengali daily yesterday, Taskin Fahmina said, “For purposes of investigation we talked to activists of Hefajat-e Islam and they gave us some names and addresses, but they did not give us any list as such.”
She claimed that the list had been compiled through using more than one source.
On June 10, Odhikar published on its website a report titled, “Assembly of Hefazat-e Islam Bangladesh and Human Rights Violation”, claiming that 61 people died in the early hours of May 6 when law enforcers flushed several thousands Hefajat activists out of Shapla Chattar in the capital’s Motijheel.
Promising to hold a non-violent rally at Shapla Chattar to protest what Hefajat had called anti-religion write-ups by “atheist bloggers” and to press home its 13-point demand, including introduction of a blasphemy law, thousands of its activists occupied the capital’s commercial hub overnight on May 5 and destroyed properties at random.
Members of police, Rapid Action Battalion and Border Guard Bangladesh then flush them out in the early hours of May 6.
Odhikar’s claim conflicts with the government estimate that 13 people died that day.
The findings of the mainstream electronic media and newspapers also disagree with Odhikar’s report.
According to an investigation by The Daily Star, 18 men died in the unrest centering on Shapla Chattar.
When the information ministry asked Odhikar to give it the list, the organisation refused showing concern over the security of the victims’ families.
Odhikar’s Secretary Adilur Rahman Khan was arrested on August 10 on charges of posting false information and pictures on the website and thus tarnishing the image of the state, the government and the law enforcement agencies.
Hefajat on several occasions mentioned a much higher death figure but it never came up with any proof in support of its claim.