Published in The Dhaka Tribune on Feb. 07 ::
The human rights watchdog urges to end deadly cycle of crimes in the country
Renewing the call for an end to the “ongoing political abuses,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) has opined that “the abuses in Bangladesh can no longer be ignored by the world.”
In a statement issued on Friday, HRW Asia Director Brad Adams said: “Some countries, including the United States and United Kingdom, have called for an end to the violence. India, whose opinion would count with Bangladeshi political parties, should also renew their call for an end to the abuses.”
“The political leadership needs to hear strongly that unless this bloodletting stops, it will impact their standing with other countries.”
The human rights watchdog also opined that with no end in sight to politically motivated violence and other abuses, the Bangladesh authorities need to ensure their response respects the rights of all and avoids arbitrary use of force, arrests, and disappearances.
“All political leaders should give clear statements that their supporters should not use unlawful violence.”
“All parties should cooperate to stop the cycle of violent crimes and ensure those responsible for all crimes are arrested and prosecuted,” said Brad Adams.
“The violent crimes being committed by some members of the opposition cannot justify killings, injuries, and wrongful arrests by the government.”
The HRW also noted that one of the most horrific aspects of the violence in Bangladesh are petrol bomb attacks, often hurled indiscriminately at private vehicles attempting to pass through strikes and transport blockades called by the opposition.
“Since most Bangladeshis rely on daily wages, they end up at risk of attack while travelling for work.”
Since early January, human rights activists put the estimate of dead at the hands of opposition members at 41, many due to such arson attacks. In addition to the dead, several hundreds have been injured over the course of the last month.
An estimated 17 other people have died at the hands of security forces, with the majority belonging to the BNP and the Jamaat-e-Islaami parties or their student wings.
“As is often the case, some of these deaths are described by police as occurring during crossfire or shootouts.”
“In other cases, police simply report finding a dead body with gunshot wounds but family members report that the victim had last been taken into custody by security forces. The government has taken no action to reign in the excessive use of force, nor to investigate and prosecute those responsible,” it added.
Referring to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s order by which she has authorised the security forces “to take any action whenever and wherever deemed necessary” to stop the arson attacks, the HRW further said: “Although she stopped short of issuing threatened directives to shoot suspected arsonists on sight, the message coming from her office only encourages further security services excesses.”
“The government has the responsibility to enforce law and order and protect citizens but security forces should know that they will be held accountable for violating human rights,” Adams said.
“Bangladesh has a long history of permitting security forces to commit excesses in order to control crime, and it is leading to the collapse of rule of law and blood on the streets.”
So far, more than 60 people have died and scores have been injured in different parts of the country in violence, which mostly involved arson attacks.
Of those, a Large number of arson attacks are being conducted on highways. Hundreds of vehicles, including those belonging to law-enforcers, were burnt and attacked.
The BNP led 20-party alliance has been enforcing a non-stop nationwide blockade since January 5 in protest against the “confinement” of the party chief Khaleda Zia.
Khaleda Zia had been kept confined to her Gulshan party office since January 3 ahead of a party rally, marking “Democracy Killing Day.”
On January 12, the security was relaxed.
But Khaleda never came out; instead she said in a press conference that she was going to stay there and the blockade would continue unless the government took the first steps towards solution.
The relaxed blockade is underway across the country amid sporadic incidents of violence, arson attacks, vandalism and arrests of BNP members.