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Forced Disappearance & Arbitrary Detention in the No Man's Land Between Myanmar and Bangladesh
The case of Dil Mohammed: Abducted by RSO and detained by Bangladesh's RAB, spotlighting issues of forced disappearance and arbitrary detention
In my latest OpED for The Diplomat, I delve into the harrowing case of Dil Mohammed, a prominent Rohingya advocate who was abducted by the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO) and then detained by Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). Kept in the shadows for months, his eventual court appearance raises serious concerns about forced disappearance and arbitrary detention in Bangladesh.
Dil Mohammed’s case is a violation of human rights. It tarnishes Bangladesh's international image and raises questions about the government's sincerity in upholding its own constitution and international commitments.
Here's a chronological rundown of the key events. I'll share my thoughts on these afterwards.
14 November 2022 | Myanmar Bangladesh Collaboration: RAB stages an attack on No Man's Land, presenting it as an anti-drug operation. However, No Man's Land is a restricted area for RAB/DGFI, governed by special rules agreed between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Leaked documents from the Myanmar military reveal that this was actually a coordinated effort between the border guards of both nations.Young Rohingya mother who recently gave birth killed alongside DGFI officer; others injured..
23 November | Crimes detailed: Charges laid against Dil Mohammed at Naikongchari Police Station under Case No 08, encompassing serious allegations such as murder, rape, Yaba smuggling, shooting and torture of DGFI officer. No mention is made of death of Rohingya mother. Despite the gravity of the accusations, authorities make no moves to arrest him. Remarkably, Dil Mohammed continues to live in close proximity to these very authorities and even maintains regular meetings with them.
9 January 2023: The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) postpones its scheduled ration distribution.
17 January: ICRC directs residents of No Man's Land to remain in their shelters for a verification process on 18 January. A mere coincidence or
something more? View their full announcement below.
I received an audio message on January 17th, allegedly featuring an ICRC official communicating in the Rohingya language to disseminate the message.
18 January RSO Attack: Early morning assault on No Man's Land by RSO, reportedly in coordination with Bangladesh's RAB, according to both eyewitness accounts and Dil Mohammed. Dil Mohammed briefly crosses into Myanmar before returning to No Man's Land, where he is kidnapped by the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO) around 3 pm. Entire No Man’s Land encampment is set on fire. 4500 Rohingya are displaced. Several people are killed. One woman burnt to death.
18 January: RSO hands Dil Mohammed to RAB
16 February: My article, "Myanmar Bangladesh Joint Offensive Cracks Down on Rohingya," is published in the South East Asia Globe. It discloses confidential documents from the Myanmar government, providing evidence that the attack on 14 November was a coordinated operation between Myanmar and Bangladesh.
14 March: KEY EVENT TO BE ELABORATED LATER.
19 May: Article on Dil Mohammed's case, titled "The Disappearance of Dil Mohammed: A Voice for the Rohingya Silenced," authored by me, appears in The Diplomat.
24 May “CAPTURE” & JAIL: Dil Mohammed is incarcerated.
30 May COURT APPEARANCE: Dil Mohammed makes his initial appearance in Bandarban court, 132 days after his disappearance and detention.
11 July: Dil Mohammed is taken to Bandarban court again.
13 August: Dil Mohammed returns to Bandarban court for another hearing.
So note that serious accusations, spanning from murder to rape to smuggling, were made against Dil Mohammed on 23 November 2022. There were also allegations concerning the horrendous torture and killing of a DGFI officer. Yet, curiously, he wasn't immediately arrested. In fact he carried on with his day-to-day activities, even interacting with the very agencies that had brought these serious allegations against him.
Equally curiously, the case file says that Dil Mohammed was apprehended on 24 May 2023, yet we know he was in custody from 18 January. This glaring discrepancy between the official account and actual events undermines the credibility of both the authorities and the judicial process.
Additionally, the case papers depict him as a flight risk who should not be granted bail, yet conveniently omit any explanation for why he wasn't arrested immediately when these charges were first levied in November 2023. Was he not a flight risk then? Dil Mohammed knew the charges against him. So, I ask again, why was he not considered a flight risk in November 2022? The case file is equally silent on his disappearance in January and the murky circumstances surrounding his eventual arrest. This also leaves us questioning where he was from the time of his initial disappearance to the moment of this so-called arrest.
The discrepancy between his reported arrest date and the timeline of his detention is not just a minor administrative error; it is a significant violation of due process, adding to the concerns of forced disappearance and arbitrary detention. It strongly suggests that the official record may have been manipulated to justify his extended detention, making it even more critical to scrutinise the actions of the involved authorities. The case file certainly warrants close examination and merits the focused attention of organisations such as the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD).
Finally, isn't it striking that the Bangladeshi press, usually so eager to publish or upload police-supplied photos of arrested Rohingya flanked by armed officers, has not circulated a single image of Dil Mohammed? Given that Dil Mohammed was a high-value target, purportedly responsible for heinous crimes according to the charge sheet, his capture would surely be a feather in the cap of RAB 15? So why this uncharacteristic reticence? Why no photo opportunity? The lack of media coverage surrounding his three court appearances further amplifies questions about the integrity of the official narrative.
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