Dhaka: Rights groups and family members of scores of people reportedly gone missing in the last three years have accused the country's anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion of abducting them, a charge denied by the elite force.
Dozens of families of people who are missing rallied at the National Press Club auditorium yesterday here with pictures of their missing relatives as rights groups organised a convention coinciding with the UN day.
They accused the RAB and police of abducting the victims, many being opposition political activists.
Supreme Court Lawyer Shahdeen Malik claimed the disappearances could not have happened without state patronisation.
Sanjida said her brother was taken away from Bashundhara area in the capital in a convoy of three cars labelled RAB 1.
"But RAB says they did not arrest him. We go to RAB's DG, ADG, CO every week. They just say, we're looking into it," she was quoted as saying by bdnews24.Com.
Sister of another BNP activist Sanjida Islam questioned "when law enforcement agencies are run with taxpayers' money, why won't they be answerable to us? Why won't there be any accountability?"
Bangladeshi media also published special reports on the issue coinciding with the UN's International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.
Daily Star newspaper said 74 people alone were picked up allegedly by law enforcement agencies like RAB in the first six months of 2014 while abandoned bodies of 23 of them were found later.
The report said 229 people were victims of forced disappearance or abduction from 2010 to 2013 while 37 were traced in custody while abandoned bodies of 31 were found later.
"Though the trend of custody deaths reduced since 2010, abductions and secret killings by the law enforcement agencies increased," the Prothom Alo newspaper in an investigate report.
However, RAB today released a statement denying such allegations against it.
"The allegations are baseless as RAB is never involved in incidents of forced disappearance or secret killings," the statement quoted RAB spokesman Mufty Mahmud Khan.
He said the people arrested by RAB on different charges were always handed over to police in line with the legal procedure to be exposed to subsequent legal actions and "we never arrested those who are said to be victims of forced disappearance."
Questioning the authenticity of the newspaper reports, State minister for home Asaduzzaman Kamal said claimed 50 to 60 per cent reports of forced disappearance or secret killings were baseless.
"Before assuming the charge (of the home ministry), I also was on a dilemma about the forced disappearances but I understand many disappear voluntarily . . . Some disappears after becoming loan defaulters ad in one case I eventually came to know a woman teacher disappeared with her ex-lover abandoning her minor children," he told the Prothom Alo.