POST TIME: 18 August, 2017 00:00 00 AM
Hundreds of human trafficking cases pending in Cox’s Bazar
Shortage of tribunal blamed
SHAMSUDDIN ILLIUS back from Cox’s Bazar

Hundreds of human trafficking cases pending in Cox’s Bazar

Cases against human traffickers and middlemen are piling up due to shortage of judges in Cox’s Bazar. From 2012 to July 2017, a total of 437 cases were filed under the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act, 2012 in Cox’s Bazar, but none of them has been disposed of by the court so far. However, 37 cases were resolved socially.

The Act came into being for speedy trial of human trafficking cases. The government set up an Anti-Human Trafficking Offence Tribunal comprising a judge of the rank of sessions judge, or additional sessions judge, in each district.

In Cox's Bazar, there is no judge in the court for the past six months. The trial of human trafficking cases is going on at the Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal.

“There is no separate tribunal for human trafficking cases. Owing to flawed investigation and lack of legal infrastructure, human traffickers often get away. The names of influential persons have been dropped from cases,” said advocate Nurul Islam, public prosecutor (PP) of the court.

“Most of those facing trial are not the main culprits. They are people recruited by middlemen or are boatmen. The main culprits are never arrested. Besides, it is difficult to prove the cases due to flawed investigation. It seems to me that law enforcement agencies lack sincerity. It is necessary to form a tribunal to dispose of the cases quickly,” he added.

In 2015, different organisations of Cox’s Bazar district had listed 300 human traffickers. Of them five were killed in “gun fight” and the others are yet to be brought to book.

Badiul Alam, a rural physician of Naikhangchhari upazila in Bandarban district, was taken to a Malaysia-bound boat in November 2013. For this, on December 17, 2013, Bulbul Begum, wife of Badiul Alam, deposited Tk.150,000 in the Islami Bank account of Hasina Akhter, wife of Abdus Salam of Teknaf upazila.

Returning home, Badiual Alam filed a case under the Human Trafficking Act, accusing Abdus Salam, his brother Abdulah and his wife Hasina Akhter in May 2015. In May 2016, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the police submitted the charge-sheet of the case before the court.

Badiual Alam said: “The traffickers forcibly took me in their boat. They made me a captive at a camp in Thailand and forced me to pay the money to Abdus Salam’s wife. Selling all our belongings, my wife paid the ransom. Although the date for hearing in my case was fixed three times last year, the trial is yet to begin. I always come to the court with the hope of justice, but return disappointed. I do not know how long I would have to wait.”

“The traffickers tortured me in the boat to pay Tk. 2 lakh to them. My parents manage to pay them Tk. 1 lakh to save my life. After returning home, I did not file any case against the middlemen who trafficked me to Malaysia as we have no financial capacity to fight a case,” said Morshed Alam of Saint Martin.

He returned to Bangladesh with the help of the International Organisation for Migration.

The Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act, 2012 says: “The Tribunal shall conclude the trial within 180 working days from the date on which a charge for an offence under this Act has been framed.

Failure to conclude the trial within such time limit shall not cancel the trial, but the Tribunal shall, within 10 working days send a report to the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh explaining the reasons for not being able to conclude the trial within the time.”