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16 April, 2019 08:16:22 PM / LAST MODIFIED: 17 April, 2019 09:11:37 AM
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HRW calls for ensuring justice for Nusrat

Independent Online Desk
HRW calls for ensuring justice for Nusrat
Nusrat Jahan Rafi. File Photo

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said the government of Bangladesh should “thoroughly investigate” the murder of madrasa student Nusrat Jahan Rafi and fairly prosecute all those responsible for the incident.

“The horrifying murder of a brave woman who sought justice shows how badly the Bangladesh government has failed victims of sexual assault,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“Nusrat Jahan Rafi’s death highlights the need for the Bangladesh government to take survivors of sexual assault seriously and ensure that they can safely seek a legal remedy and be protected from retaliation,” she said.

The murder of Nusrat Jahan Rafi, who was killed after she filed a complaint of attempted rape, should spur the authorities to take concerted action to combat sexual violence in the country, said the New York-based rights body on Tuesday.

Police said Nusrat, 18, was tricked into going to the rooftop of a cyclone shelter at her madrassa in Feni on April 6, where at least four people grabbed her, doused her in kerosene, and lit her on fire, it said.

The attack came after she refused to back down from pursuing her March 27 complaint of attempted rape against the madrassa principal, Sirajuddoula.

She died from burns covering 80 per cent of her body on April 10. The attack led to nationwide protests calling on the government to reform and enforce Bangladeshi laws and practices concerning sexual assault.

HRW said a video taken on March 27 while Nusrat Jahan Rafi reported the assault shows the officer-in-charge of a police station registering her complaint but telling her that the incident was “not a big deal”.

Subsequently, supporters of the accused pressured her to withdraw her complaint.

The woman’s family told the media that before the attack they received death threats telling them to drop the case, it said.

But she was determined to seek justice. Her brother said after she was attacked on April 6, Nusrat Jahan Rafi told her family that the assailants had demanded that she withdraw her case against the principal, and when she refused, they set her on fire, the rights body said.

The police have arrested eight of the 13 people accused of taking part in the murder. Two have confessed, according to police, that the murder was carried out at the direction of the principal, who remains in custody over Nusrat Jahan Rafi’s allegations.

Although Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has vowed to bring those responsible for the killing to justice, the government’s record on prosecuting sexual violence cases is extremely poor, HRW said. “The murder occurred around the fourth anniversary of a case of mass sexual harassment of at least 20 women during Bengali New Year celebrations at Dhaka University on April 14, 2015. In the four years since, there has been little progress in the court case.”

“Nusrat Jahan Rafi’s cruel death is a sobering reminder of the pervasive risk of sexual violence that is faced by Bangladeshi women and girls,” Ganguly said. “The government should ensure justice for her family, urgently put legal protections in place to prevent sexual assault, and provide effective protection to survivors.”unb

BK

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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