Lawyers must be able to represent their clients free from physical attack, senior bar figures have said, amid concerns that a Bangladesh lawyer has been unlawfully detained.
Mir Ahmed Bin Quasem (pictured), a member of the bar of England and Wales, was taken from his Dhaka home late in the evening of 9 August by men claiming to be security forces, according to a statement from the Bar Council and Bar Human Rights Committee issued today.
Local media reports said Bin Quasem ‘was whisked away by men in plain clothes’ who identified themselves as security forces. The police, however, said they had no information about the detention. ‘We do not know anything about it,’ Dhaka police spokesperson Deputy Commissioner Masudur Rahman told bdnews24.com.
No information has been given on where the barrister, who is also a member of the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, is being held, by whom or under what suspicion or charge.
Quasem is a member of the defence team at the International Crimes Tribunal, set up to prosecute perpetrators of atrocities in Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence. He is part of the defence team for his father, Mir Quasem Ali, the former leader of the Bangladeshi opposition party Jamaat-e-Islami, who is appealing his 2014 death sentence to the Bangladesh Supreme Court.
Bar Council of England and Wales chair Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC said Quasem’s disappearance highlighted 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,’ she added.
Bar Human Rights Committee chair Kirsty Brimelow QC said reports of Quasem’s detention were in the context of an ongoing clampdown on human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists in Bangladesh.
‘The [committee] 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,’ Brimelow said.
‘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.’