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On 24 February 2017 the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances called on Bangladesh to ‘act now to halt an increasing number of enforced disappearances in the country’ and to immediately reveal the whereabouts of Michael’s client Mr Bin Quasem. The Working Ground also called for the Bangladeshi Government to reveal the whereabouts of fellow detainees Humam Chowdhury and Brigadier General Al Azmi. (http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21220&LangID=E) The Working Group’s message was endorsed by the UN Special Rapporteur on: torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.
Mr Ahmad Bin Quasem is a Bangladeshi barrister, who has also been called to the Bar of England and Wales. He was representing his father before the International Crimes Tribunal, a tribunal set up by the ruling party in Bangladesh to try crimes allegedly committed during the Bangladesh Liberation War. The ICT has been widely criticised internationally including by groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, as well as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and in the independent report prepared by Geoffrey Robertson QC.
Michael Polak has been instructed by Mr Bin Quasem’s family to push for his release since September 2016. Michael’s work on this case has included political representations to the UK Government and EU institutions, submissions to the United Nation’s Human Rights bodies, and communicating with both the international and domestic press. Michael also travelled to Bangladesh in November 2016 to meet with the international diplomatic community on this matter.
The welcomed intervention by the Working Group and Special Rapporteurs follows communications to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights made by Michael in September 2016. It also adds to a chorus of voices calling for the release of Mr Bin Quasem including MP Shabana Mahmood who raised the matter in a written Parliamentary question answered on 30 January 2017 by Mr Alok Sharma MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The European Union’s EEAS has also raised the issue of enforced disappearances with Bangladesh as has Amnesty International, Human Right Watch, The Bar Council and Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales, and individual members of the English Bar.
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