US European community concerned by shrinking democratic space

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The United States and the United Kingdom on Wednesday expressed shock and concern at attack on former Foreign Secretary Reaz Rahman and urged the government to track down and hold accountable those responsible for the attack.
In a press statement, Deputy Department Spokesperson of the US Department of State, Marie Harf said, “The United States is shocked and saddened by the attack against former Foreign Secretary Reaz Rahman, and hope for his speedy recovery.”
There is no justification for such outrageous and cowardly acts in a democratic Bangladesh, Harf said condemning the use of violence for political objectives. “We urge the government of Bangladesh to investigate, track down, and hold accountable those responsible for these acts,” said the Deputy Spokesperson.
Harf urged all sides to refrain from acts of violence and called on all parties to exercise restraint and eschew violence and intimidation. “We urge the government to ensure people can freely exercise their right to peaceful political expression.”
In a separate statement, British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Robert Gibson expressed his deep sadness and concern at the attack on Reaz Rahman, and continuing reports of violence from across Bangladesh, including reports of an arson attack against a bus in Rangpur district this morning that resulted in the deaths of a number of passengers and many injuries.
“I deplore the horrific attack against the former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Reaz Rahman, and am deeply saddened by the news of the attack on a bus in Rangpur, which resulted in tragic loss of life and injury. I send my deepest sympathies to the victims and their families,” he said.
Gibson urged the government of Bangladesh to investigate these crimes, and to bring those responsible to justice. “The UK continues to call for all parties to exercise restraint and moderation and respect the rule of law, and to come together in a dialogue to break the cycle of violence and disruption,” he added.
Unidentified people shot BNP chairperson’s adviser Reaz Rahman and then torched his car at the capital’s Gulshan-2 on Tuesday night.
Two bullets hit the 74-year-old in the left leg and two below his waist, but the bullets did not cause major injuries to his internal organs, according to doctors.
Meanwhile, Heads of Mission of the European Union (EU) resident in Bangladesh on Wednesday expressed concern over the current political situation and called for genuine dialogue to strengthen democracy.
Heads of mission of the EU missions in Bangladesh on Wednesday met foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali and shared with the minister their concerns regarding the current situation in Bangladesh. The nine heads of mission regretted the on-going violence and disruption in the country, which has resulted in several deaths, hundreds of casualties and the destruction of property. This includes the aggression perpetrated on Tuesday against the former minister of state for foreign affairs Reaz Rahman, as well as the horrific attack on passengers of a bus in Rangpur on Wednesday.
The heads of mission expressed concern on the shrinking democratic space, a release of the EU delegation to Bangladesh said. They said actions to restore peace and stability should not be at the expense of freedoms of assembly, movement and speech.
They further advocated that refraining from violence and engaging in genuine dialogue between all stakeholders would open the way forward to strengthen democracy. Briefing the ambassadors, the foreign minister referred to the European Parliament resolutions on Bangladesh of January 16 and September 18, 2014 condemning such violence and terrorist acts, and their call for ban on political parties resorting to such acts.
The foreign minister also referred to the recent High Court Division Order asking the government to prohibit the publication or broadcast of any statements and messages by the BNP senior vice-chairman Tarique Rahman as long as he remained a fugitive in the eyes of law.
Mahmood mentioned recent media reports on a telephone call made by BJP president Amit Shah to Begum Khaleda Zia, and a statement issued by six US congressmen expressing their concern over the political situation in Bangladesh, and said that upon inquiry both have been found to be absolutely false.
He said this has established beyond any doubt that the BNP-Jamaat alliance took refuge in falsehood in their attempts of ‘Goebbelsian hypocrisy.’
The foreign minister, however,  expressed his sadness at the shooting of ambassador Reaz Rahman by miscreants Tuesday night. He said the government would ensure justice thorough investigation into the incident and has already instructed the Dhaka Metropolitan Police to remain vigilant on the matter.
The EU head of delegation said Bangladesh had the EU’s abiding support in combating terrorism. The EU ambassadors expressed their collective resolve to further strengthen, enlarge and reinforce the partnership between Bangladesh and the EU.
Mahmood assured the EU and other European ambassadors of continued cooperation and sought their sustained support in delivering development mandates of the government, to which the envoys responded positively. The foreign minister later briefed the ambassadors of other European states – Russia, Norway, the Holy See and Switzerland – along similar lines. During the briefing, minister of state for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam and foreign secretary Shahidul Haque were present.

 

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