Six international organizations are concerned about the human rights situation in Bangladesh

Sathia Kumar

The statement said the law enforcement authorities’ indiscriminate and excessive use of tear gas shells, batons, rubber bullets and similar weapons has raised serious concerns about the escalation of violence.

Six international human rights organizations have expressed deep concern over the current human rights situation in Bangladesh and the narrowing of the civil sphere around the upcoming national elections on January 7. These six organizations working on human rights around the world expressed this concern in a joint statement. The statement was published on the website of the US Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights (RFKHR) on Tuesday.

The organizations that signed the statement are, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights (RFKHR), Capitol Punishment Justice Project (CPJP), The United Against Torture Consortium (UATC), Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) and International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED). ).

According to the statement, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s ruling party, Awami League, has resorted to violence to suppress protests and political dissent since the end of October this year after the coordinated protests and gatherings of political opponents. In this repression, 17 people including a journalist were killed and 8 thousand 249 opposition leaders were injured. Besides, at least 50 people were injured in the clash between the police, the ruling party and the opposition party in a human chain organized on the occasion of International Human Rights Day in Shaistanagar area of Habiganj. These incidents call for accountability and a thorough and independent investigation into the circumstances that led to the violence and killings.

The statement said the law enforcement authorities’ indiscriminate and excessive use of tear gas shells, batons, rubber bullets and similar weapons has raised serious concerns about the escalation of violence. Immediate action needs to be taken against misuse of police equipment. Indiscriminate use of such tools not only violates the fundamental rights of citizens, but also creates an environment that tends to escalate tensions; which undermines the basis for dissent, peaceful assembly and democratic dialogue.

The statement also said that security forces must urgently follow international human rights standards. This includes following the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officers and the UN Human Rights Guidelines on Less Lethal Weapons in Law Enforcement.

Since the end of last October, more than 20,000 members of the opposition party in Bangladesh have been arrested extensively and indiscriminately. They have been arrested in 837 cases of fabricated charges. Where bail is continuously being denied despite valid reasons. There were also consistent and credible reports of torture and illegal solitary confinement of detainees in police custody.

The statement said the government was convicting key opposition leaders in an extended-hours trial in the evening to disqualify potential opposition candidates ahead of the January 7 election. Judiciary is being systematically used here. Mass arrests and convictions not only undermine the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, liberty, personal integrity and the right to a fair trial, but also leave countless families in misery. Because detainees are often the sole breadwinners of their families.

The statement of the six organizations also said that the widespread use of violence and arbitrary detention in Bangladesh shows a dire picture of the country’s democracy and human rights situation. These abuses took place in the context of a social movement, where people are demanding free and fair elections next January. Instead of upholding the basic principles of democracy, the Bangladeshi government’s violent and repressive response has “created an environment of fear, anxiety and extreme insecurity for citizens.”

UN experts expressed their concern about the violent crackdown. They said, “Bangladesh is moving towards national elections in early 2024. At this time we are deeply concerned by the massive increase in political violence, arrests of senior opposition leaders, excessive use of force by authorities to detain thousands of political activists, internet shutdowns to disrupt protests and retaliatory harassment, intimidation and illegal detention of family members. .

The statement mentioned that the people of Bangladesh are struggling for a fair, democratic and peaceful society. It is said that they (six organizations) are on the side of the people of Bangladesh. These six organizations strongly called for an immediate end to violence, repression and intimidation targeting political opponents.

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