Dr. Shamin Mahfuz is a 46 year old Bangladeshi national – a lecturer, teacher, husband and father of three. On 15th October 2022, Dr. Mahfuz is thought to have been kidnapped by state agencies and forcibly disappeared at the hands of the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) Unit. Disturbingly, his wife and children were also taken. Their exact whereabouts remain unknown.
Over the last decade, Dr. Mahfuz has been subject to multiple arrests by CTTC Police in Bangladesh. Despite numerous arrests, he has never been convicted of any offence.
Dr. Mahfuz is a resident of Gaibandha District, Bangladesh and a teacher with the Open University. He obtained a masters in Sociology from Dhaka University before going on to complete his PhD with a specialism in “Hill Minorities”. Thereafter he began teaching.
Dr. Mahfuz has three sons with his wife.
According to reports obtained by CAGE, on 15th October 2022, Dr. Mahfuz was disappeared (along with his wife and three sons) from Chittagong, where he was staying in rented accommodation. At the time of writing, there is no information on the whereabouts of Dr. Mahfuz or his family. As in most cases of enforced disappearances, the authorities refuse to acknowledge they are holding individuals illegally and outside the parameters of the law.
A number of individuals who were released from CTTC’s disappearance cell have since reported that Dr. Mahfuz and his family are being held in the custody of the CTTC, possibly at their main office (Minto Road).
The reports are particularly concerning in light of their allegations that Dr. Mahfuz’s young children have been kidnapped and are being held in state custody, as a means of punishment and a brutal tactic of coercion.
In a pattern of repeated harassment lasting over a decade, Dr. Mahfuz appears to have been arrested a number of times but then released without being convicted of any wrongdoing.
Dr. Mahfuz was first arrested in 2011 on suspicion of “militant action”. He was held in Chittagong jail for two years, until 2013 when he was released on bail.
Following his release, Dr. Mahfuz took up a job in an NGO based in Cox’s Bazar.
On April 13th 2014, Dr. Mahfuz was taken from a bus, on his way back from Bandarban court.
Dr. Mahfuz was kept hidden in custody for almost three months until on July 2nd 2014, the CTTC confirmed that they had arrested Dr. Mahfuz.
Dr. Mahfuz was eventually released on bail.
On the day of his release, D Mahfuz was taken from the gates of Dhaka Central Jail.
Once again, the CTTC confirmed that Dr. Mahfuz was in their custody.
Following four days in custody, Dr. Mahfuz was released to his family.
The case of Enforced Disappearances in Bangladesh:
Bangladeshi security forces, particularly the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Detective Branch (DB) And CTTC, have been linked to nearly 600 cases of enforced disappearances since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina returned to power in 2009.
While some victims are released or taken to court after weeks or months of secret detention, others become victims of extrajudicial killings and scores are still missing.
From 2010, picking up of opposition leaders and activists by the state security forces began to surge in Bangladesh. These incidents, along with extrajudicial killings, have been criticised by The United Nations and human rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
Violations of international law
If Bangladeshi authorities are responsible for the kidnap and disappearance of Dr. Mahfuz and his family, then they may be in violation of several international rights treaties, including the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Dr. Mahfuz appears to be one of the many citizens of Bangladesh swept up in the state authorities’ use of tactics of intimidation, harassment and abuse, with a complete disregard for due process and the rule of law.
CAGE calls upon the Bangladeshi authorities to confirm whether Dr. Mahfuz and his family are being held in state custody and, if so, confirm his whereabouts and either formally charge him or effect his immediate release. CAGE further calls upon the Bangladeshi authorities to immediately release his wife and children.
Dr. Mahfuz’s family and friends await confirmation of his location and well being. With no real recourse to justice or accountability, his case highlights the need to raise awareness of such injustices and call for his immediate release from custody.
Do you have any information on the whereabouts of Shamin Mahfuz or any of his family? If you think you can help, please contact CAGE at the following email address: email@example.com. We can arrange for secure and anonymous means of submitting evidence.
*Image courtesy of banglatribune.net
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)