The Bar Council and Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales have issued a joint statement today, voicing concern over the abduction of Mir Ahmed Bin Quasem, a lawyer in Bangladesh.
Reports indicate that Mr. Quasem was taken from his home on 9th August by Bangladeshi security forces. No information has been given on where he is being held, by whom or under what suspicion or charge.
Mr. Quasem is a member of the Bar of England and Wales; he is also part of the legal defence team for his father Mir Quasem Ali, the former leader of the Bangladeshi opposition party Jamaat-e-Islami. Mr. Ali is currently appealing his 2014 death sentence to the Bangladesh Supreme Court.
Chairman of the Bar Council of England and Wales Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC said:
“The disappearance of Mir Ahmed Bin Quasem, who is a member of the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, highlights the dangers faced by lawyers in jurisdictions where the rule of law is under threat. Lawyers play a crucial role in ensuring the administration of justice and must be able to represent their clients free from physical attack and fear of persecution.
We call on the Bangladeshi Government to investigate these reports and disclose the whereabouts and legal status of Mr. Quasem as a matter of urgency.”
Chairwoman of the Bar Human Rights Committee Kirsty Brimelow QC said:
“BHRC is extremely concerned by reports that Mir Ahmed Bin Quasem has been detained by security forces, especially given his position as defence lawyer in his father’s legal case. This is in the context of an ongoing clampdown on human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists in Bangladesh.
Lawyers must be free to represent their clients without fear of intimidation or violence, and states must act to ensure the safety of lawyers and human rights defenders.
BHRC calls upon Bangladesh to provide urgent confirmation of Mr. Quasem’s safety and whereabouts, and to either charge him with a specific crime for which there is credible evidence, or immediately release him.
Furthermore, Bangladesh must comply with its international law obligations and provide clear proposals on strengthening protections for lawyers, judges and human rights defenders. Accountability is required over the abductions of Mr. Quasem and others”