Bangladesh: 28 men suspected of being gay freed
Good news! All 28 men arrested on suspicion of being gay are now free
Twenty-eight men were arrested during a social event on May 19, 2017 in Kerinaganj, a town south of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Why? Though the individuals were detained on suspicion of violating the Narcotics Control Act 1990, Amnesty International believes that the arrests were due to the fact that the gathering was known to be frequented by gay men.
Twenty-three of the men were granted bail in June. The remaining five men were released on bail on July 21. Amnesty does not know if any conditions were attached to the bail.
The men do not appear to be facing imminent danger any longer. Amnesty International will continue monitoring the situation, and respond accordingly if there are any developments.
On May 19, 2017 more than 150 men had gathered for a regular social event, known to be frequented by members of the LGBTI community, in Keraniganj, Bangladesh. At around 2 am, members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), an elite anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police, raided the community centre where the event was hosted. The RAB has been accused by human rights organisations of committing a range of human rights violations including extrajudicial executions, torture and enforced disappearances.
Multiple sources told Amnesty International that RAB officers physically and verbally assaulted many of those present, and forced all of them to stand in a line. Officers then proceeded to ‘inspect’ them and arrested those they suspected of being gay men, based on their clothing and mannerisms. At least 28 people were arrested, including the owner of the community centre, while the others were allowed to leave. The men were then taken to Keraniganj Police Station where they were charged with drug possession, which can carry a penalty of life imprisonment or a death sentence. Torture and other ill-treatment are rife in detention in Bangladesh and Amnesty International was extremely concerned about the well-being of those arrested.
Harassment of LGBTI people by security forces is common in Bangladesh, and many LGBTI people have told Amnesty International that they are extremely hesitant to approach the police. Far from being offered protection, those who have reported abuses say that they are often harassed by police, told to be “less provocative” and even threatened with arrests and criminal charges for “unnatural offences” under Section 377 of the Penal Code.