Viewing cable 08DHAKA250
Title: TWO U.S. ANTI-TRAFFICKING ADVOCATES VISIT

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
08DHAKA2502008-02-26 04:00:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Dhaka
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RR RUEHCI
DE RUEHKA #0250/01 0570400
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 260400Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY DHAKA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6301
INFO RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 8330
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 2053
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 9555
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 0511
RUEHNT/AMEMBASSY TASHKENT 0193
RUEHTA/AMEMBASSY ALMATY 0114
RUEHEK/AMEMBASSY BISHKEK 0084
RUEHDBU/AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE
RUEHAH/AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT 0194
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA 1177
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0659
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0099
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DHAKA 000250 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/24/2018 
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KGOV KDEM BG
SUBJECT: TWO U.S. ANTI-TRAFFICKING ADVOCATES VISIT 
BANGLADESH, MEET WITH SIGMA HUDA 
 
 
Classified By: Charge d'Affaires a.i. Geeta Pasi; reasons 1.4(d) 
 
¶1. (C) SUMMARY. Two representatives from the Coalition 
Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), a U.S.-based 
anti-trafficking organization, visited Bangladesh February 
7-10 to discuss the case of Sigma Huda, the former UN 
Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons who is currently serving 
a prison sentence for her conviction on corruption charges. 
They met with Sigma at the courtroom where she is being tried 
on additional corruption charges and also held discussions 
with the Embassy, human rights organizations and other 
groups.  END SUMMARY. 
 
ADVOCATES VISIT DHAKA TO DISCUSS SIGMA HUDA CASE 
============================================= === 
 
¶2. (SBU) Dr. Janice Raymond and Dorchen Leidholt, two board 
members of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), 
a U.S.-based anti-trafficking organization, visited Dhaka 
from February 7 to 10.  The purpose of their trip was to 
visit Sigma Huda, the former UN Rapporteur on Trafficking in 
Persons who has been jailed on corruption charges along with 
her husband, former Communications Minister Nazmul Huda. 
 
¶3. (C) During the visit, Raymond and Leidholt met with the 
Charge d,Affaires a.i. and other Embassy officers to discuss 
CATW concerns about Sigma's health.  We informed Raymond and 
Leidholt the Embassy was monitoring Sigma's condition closely 
and had weighed in several times with the government to 
ensure Sigma received proper treatment.  We noted that Sigma 
had been convicted already on one set of corruption charges, 
and we emphasized we could not prejudge the other cases 
against Sigma.  We observed that the government has informed 
us it has strong grounds for holding and charging Sigma and 
her husband. Nevertheless, we assured Raymond and Leidholt we 
were concerned about Sigma's health and would raise the issue 
with the government again. We also facilitated a meeting for 
them with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. 
 
SIGMA'S HEALTH "VERY POOR" 
========================== 
 
¶4. (C) Raymond and Leidholt were able to see Sigma briefly in 
the court chamber where her second trial is taking place. 
They also spoke at length with Sigma's primary physician and 
her sister.  Raymond and Leidholt said they were shocked by 
the deterioration in Sigma's health since they last saw her 
in October 2006.  They described Sigma's condition as very 
poor; according to her private physician, she was retaining 
fluid, a sign of impending congestive heart failure and renal 
failure; and when they visited her she was wheelchair bound 
and visibly weak.  The prison was feeding her starches which 
aggravated her diabetes, and refused to grant permission for 
her family to bring her food from the outside. Despite her 
numerous ailments, prison authorities recently moved Sigma 
from the jail facilities at Dhaka University Medical College 
back to the main central jail.  Sigma's doctor told them he 
believed if Sigma did not receive constant monitoring and 
proper medical care, "she could die any day." 
 
CONCERNS ABOUT DUE PROCESS, TAINTED COURT PROCEEDINGS 
============================================= ======== 
 
¶5. (C) Raymond and Leidholt also shared with POLOFF their 
discussions with human rights activists and Sigma's family. 
Leidholt, an attorney, expressed skepticism Sigma was 
receiving due process, saying she had been shown the case 
documents by one of Sigma's lawyers and the court case 
appeared flimsy.  She also said they were told plainclothes 
military officers were present in the courtrooms issuing 
instructions to the judges and prosecutors. 
 
¶6. (SBU) Before leaving the country, Raymond and Leidholt 
held a press conference where they expressed "grave concern" 
over Sigma's deteriorating health condition and urged the 
authorities to transfer her to a hospital or to her home so 
she could get proper medical care.  The event was widely 
covered in the local media. 
 
 
DHAKA 00000250  002 OF 002 
 
 
INSPECTOR GENERAL OF PRISONS AGREED TO LOOK INTO SITUATION 
============================================= ============= 
 
¶7. (C) After Raymond and Leidholt departed, POLOFF raised 
Sigma's case with the Inspector General of Prisons. The IG 
did not dispute Sigma was ill, but did say that due to the 
lack of secure space in government hospitals, he had to 
prioritize sick prisoners based on the seriousness of their 
condition, and there were several prisoners in the system 
sicker than Sigma. Nevertheless, he said he was trying to get 
Sigma moved back into the hospital. Moving her to a private 
hospital would not be possible, however, since it would 
require too many of his scarce supply of guards and was 
simply not practical.  A court would have to grant her bail 
for her to be sent home to convelesce.  Regarding the issue 
of her diet, the IG said no prisoners were permitted outside 
food for security purposes, but he would see how he could 
ensure she received meals more appropriate to her medical 
condition. (NOTE: A more detailed account of our discussion 
with the IGP on prison conditions and medical needs of 
prisoners will be provided septel.) 
 
COMMENT: GOVERNMENT PRESSED TO TAKE POSITIVE MEASURES 
============================================= ======== 
 
¶8. (C) The Charge d,Affaires a.i. raised Sigma's case with 
Home Adviser MA Matin, Law Adviser Hassan Ariff, and senior 
officials of the Directorate General-Forces Intelligence 
(DGFI).  They seemed to take our message seriously, and 
agreed to look into the matter.  Apart from the concern we 
have about the lack of medical care made available to 
seriously ill prisoners, we have also emphasized to the 
government the international attention to human rights in 
Bangladesh, noting the damage to the caretaker government's 
reputation should individuals detained in corruption cases 
die in custody for want of medical care. 
Pasi