UN anxiety over Bangladesh

Sadeq Khan

Bangladesh is virtually in a state of asymmetric war between state power and people power. As is usual in such asymmetric conflicts, people driven to or prone to insurgency use their relationship with local population as a logistical base, intelligence source for battle formation and retreat, as well as a sanctuary in so far as they may blend with the population and evade detection…

Counter insurgency agencies then tend to intimidate the local population forcing them to divulge information, or where possible, buy them off from shielding insurgency-prone elements by economic incentives. If situation deteriorates, counter insurgency agencies go into “special operations” and the insurgency-prone groups take to “hit and run” guerrialla tactics.
It is precisely when state power undertakes such “special operations”, meant to avoid the general population but in practice fail to do so, and the insurgency-prone elements manage to “hit and run” and disappear blending into the population, that human tragedy of deplorable population takes place. This is exactly what is happening in Bangladesh. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) based in Hong Kong in an Open Letter to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has succinctly portrayed the current situation of great human tragedy in Bangladesh, appealing for appropriate measure of redemption by the international community.
The Open Letter reads: “The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is writing to you to bring to your attention the alarming reality in Bangladesh. In the lead up to the 5 January 2014 general election, citizens, identified by the incumbent government as supporters of the political opposition, are being extra-judicially executed, daily, by state agents. At the moment, a joint team of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and the Border Guards, Bangladesh (BGB) are engaged in rounding up people, and in burning down houses and businesses of persons, identified by the ruling political coalition as sympathizers of the opposition political groups in different districts.

Suppression by ‘brute force’
“Suppression of political opposition by all means, including brute force, has been a priority for the political coalition in power. This has provoked violent retaliation by the opposition. The bloody saga is playing out daily in Dhaka and throughout the country.
“Since the announcement of the election schedule on 25 November 2013, an estimated 105 persons have lost their lives in Bangladesh. These deaths are directly related to attempts by the government to hold partisan elections and attempts by the opposition parties to prevent the same. Such loss of life must end immediately. All efforts must be taken to ensure this.
“The AHRC appreciates the efforts of your office, in sending a special representative, Mr. Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, to Bangladesh with a brief to negotiate peace between the opposing political factions. The AHRC understands the enormous challenge that the UN Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs, Mr. Fernandez-Taranco embarked upon.
“While the UN representative has succeeded in bringing the antagonistic political forces to dialog, there has been no reduction in arbitrary executions in the country. The ruling political coalition has ordered their cadres, from December 15 onwards, to assist law enforcement agencies. The AHRC is extremely concerned that this assistance is translating into thugs associated with the ruling coalition joining forces with state agencies and engaging in murder, torture, and rape at will, unleashing terror upon the entire society.

Institutions under control
“Justice institutions in the country are virtually under the absolute control of the government. The government is using its capacity to manipulate the magistracy to justify prolonged periods of arbitrary detention of persons who have expressed public opinion against the government’s gag on dissent. The country’s media is silenced by threat and intimidation and are not allowed to report even massive human rights abuses. The state and its agencies target everyone acting against the will of the incumbent government.
“The AHRC believes that without extraordinary effort, initiated by the international community, which includes the Office of the UN Secretary General, the enormous scale of violence and brutality in Bangladesh will continue to escalate. We therefore request your kind office to take all possible measures to ensure that the international community is adequately briefed about the daily blood-bath taking place in Bangladesh.”
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay had earlier issued a statement in the beginning of this month, pointing out that Bangladesh is a State Party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, with a warming. The Statement said: “In recent weeks, supporters of both parties have been clashing with each other and with the security forces. Scores of people have been killed, hundreds injured, and there has been extensive destruction of property. The on-going arrest and detention of key opposition leaders by the law enforcement agencies can further inflame the situation.
“In other situations, we have seen cases of political or election related violence where the perpetrators of such acts – including political leadership – have faced prosecution.”
The international community may or may not step in right away to “save” the people of Bangladesh. Nevertheless, it may be wise for the parties to the current situation of grave civil disorder in Bangladesh, including the officeholders of the state, the political leaders in their respective constituencies, the government officials and members of the police, the magistracy, the judiciary, and the Election Commission, that whosoever amongst them are perceived to be contributing to the gravity of the situation by action or inaction will certainly not be immune from prosecution under Section 27 of the Rome Statute, irrespective of their official status of immunity under the laws of the land.

Source: Weekly Holiday

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