UK hides Bangladesh prison report as British journalist suffers in Dhaka jail
August 28, 2016
Britain’s Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has refused to declassify files about its work with Bangladeshi prison guards, as an elderly British journalist enters his fourth month of detention without charge.
International human rights charity Reprieve is concerned that Shafik Rehman, an 81 year old former BBC journalist, could face a potential death sentence.
In 2015, the MoJ’s commercial arm, Just Solutions International (JSi) carried out a feasibility study of Bangladesh’s prisons. Reprieve made a freedom of Information request for copies of files from this JSi project, asking in particular for details about healthcare and facilities for elderly prisoners. However, the MoJ recently refused the request claiming that releasing the files would damage international relations.
Mr Rehman’s health deteriorated rapidly after he spent the first month in solitary confinement sleeping on the floor. He has a stent in his artery and was taken to the hospital wing of Dhaka Central Jail but has since been moved back to his cell.
The decision to keep JSi files secret comes months after the organisation was shut down over its controversial work with the Saudi Arabian interior ministry, which carries out executions and floggings.
Reprieve is calling on the Foreign Office to support Mr Rehman’s release. He was due to have a Supreme Court hearing last week but this was delayed until Tuesday 30th August.
Commenting, Maya Foa, director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said:
“By covering up these files, the UK government is helping Bangladesh whitewash its abuse and mistreatment of prisoners like Shafik. This 81 year old British journalist spent a month in solitary confinement lying on the floor of a Bangladeshi prison cell as his health collapsed. He has now spent over 100 days in detention without charge and could face a death sentence, just for doing his job. The Foreign Office needs to urgently step up its assistance for imprisoned journalists like Shafik and support his release.”
Notes to editors
1. The FOI response is available on request.
2. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] reprieve.org.uk. Reprieve U.S., based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at] reprieve.org