On August 18, 2023, six student leaders of the Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD), the student wing of the main opposition party Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), went missing after apparently being detained by police officers in civilian clothing.
The senior joint secretary of Dhaka University’s JCD branch, Mominul Islam went missing after leaving his residence in Azimpur. Following Islam’s disappearance, five of his peers went to Mominul Islam’s house looking for him and were picked up and taken away by several men. Family members and lawyers for two of the missing individuals identified the men who picked up the JCD members as police officers.
Amnesty International has expressed deep concern over the disappearances of the six students.
The police later reported that firearms and ammunition were recovered from the arrested student leaders. Two cases were filed against the six JCD leaders under the Special Power Act and the Arms Act. Two students were placed on two-day remand each in the arms cases and the other four were sent to jail by the Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate Court. The BNP secretary general alleged that the police statements were fabricated and the cases were being filed by the intelligence agencies under the Arms Act due to political motivation before the upcoming election.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest and detention of student leaders, apparently due to the exercise of their right to freedom of association – conduct which is expressly protected by international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bangladesh is a party. While state security forces have a responsibility to maintain security and safety, they must also respect international human rights standards, including by refraining from discriminatory actions against students based on their political affiliations. In addition to harm to the immediate victims, the disappearance of students undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.