South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Published in The Daily Star on Jan. 16 ::

The United Nations Human Rights Commission today urged all political parties in Bangladesh to show restraint and bring an immediate end to the violence.

The UN body also called on the authorities to ensure the prompt, impartial and effective investigation into all killings committed – irrespective of whether they were committed by the State or non-State actors.

“The government should also ensure that the arrest and detention of key opposition leaders by law enforcement agencies is not arbitrary,” said spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights- Ravina Shamdasani in a statement from Geneva.

The spokesperson also said the government should ensure that all measures taken to restore law and order are conducted in line with the parameters set by international human rights law, including respect for the freedoms of peaceful assembly, movement and speech.

The statement mentioned that deepening political violence in Bangladesh, resulting from the failure by the two major political parties to resolve their differences peacefully, is very disturbing. “We’re concerned about the potential for the violence, which has already led to deaths, injury and disruption, to spiral, as seen in the run up to the 2014 elections.”

The current unrest began on January 5 when the opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP) called on its supporters to launch a transport blockade to mark the anniversary of last year’s elections, which were boycotted by the opposition.

The government, meanwhile, imposed a ban on demonstrations and prevented the chairperson and other senior members of the BNP from participating in the protest, it observed.

Since then, over a dozen people have reportedly been killed and hundreds injured in clashes between supporters of the two parties, as well as with security forces. A number of key opposition leaders have also been arrested.

“Particularly disturbing is the rampant use of arson attacks on vehicles. A crowded public bus was set on fire on Tuesday, burning to death four people, including one child. The same day, a senior BNP advisor was shot at and his car set on fire. Yesterday, another person was killed when a bus was reportedly set ablaze in Kaliakoir, about 50 kilometres north of Dhaka,” said the statement.