A New York-based rights group says Bangladesh government has failed to prosecute security forces for “serious abuses” including killings, enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests.
In its 2015 World Report, released on Thursday, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said government forces committed serious abuses both leading up to and after the January 2014 general election.
The HRW has also criticised opposition parties, saying they engaged in violent and indiscriminate attacks to impose economic blockades and to enforce a boycott of the January polls.
The rights body said that barring arrest of several RAB personnel over Narayanganj 7-murder in May, the government did not take any step to ensure accountability for any election-related violence or for other violations by its security forces.
“The arrest of a few members of RAB is a positive move, but the government must ensure that justice is not dealt out selectively, depending on family or political connections,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a report on Bangladesh published on its website.
“The government essentially gives security forces free rein so long as it suits the government’s interests, and turns a blind eye to excesses. This has long been a trend in Bangladesh, regardless of which party is in power,” Adams observed.
In the 656-page world report, its 25th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries.
In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth urged governments to recognise that human rights offered an effective moral guide in turbulent times, and that violating rights can spark or aggravate serious security challenges.
HRW also pointed to chronic rights issues that remain a concern in Bangladesh.
Child marriage persists as a serious problem, it said adding conditions of the Rohingya refugees from Burma remained critical with the Bangladesh government making dire threats of forcibly deporting them.
The HRW claimed that international humanitarian groups continued to report about difficulty in getting access to the Rohingya refugee camps.
“After years of increasing restrictions on civil society, the government introduced a draft bill that would formalize restrictive practices and policies, and make access to foreign funding particularly onerous,” the report said.
“The government also introduced a new media policy that imposed unacceptable limits on free expression and speech,” it added.
On labour rights, the HRW said workers continued to report intimidation and violence while attempting to form or join unions even as the government had amended its labour laws after the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory.
In a positive move in 2014, two groups of North American and European retailers completed their fire and safety inspections of more than 2000 factories in the ready-made garment industry following an agreement after the Rana Plaza tragedy, the HRW report said.
Although they made their reports public and repairs had begun in some factories, inspections conducted by the government of other factories had not been made public and it remained unknown if any repairs had been undertaken, the report further pointed out.