Human Rights Watch, a New York-based rights body, said the Bangladesh authorities should immediately end arbitrary arrests of opposition party members and others.
“The ruling party keeps saying it welcomes dialogue with the opposition, but in light of the ongoing crackdowns, it’s impossible to take that statement seriously,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“To resolve the current political deadlock, all parties have to make commitments to end political violence, while the international community needs to ramp up pressure for a political settlement that involves a credible election.”
Arrests have continued even after the ruling Awami League party and its allies won the largely uncontested elections held on January 5, 2014, it said in a report released on January 8.
“Dozens and perhaps hundreds of opposition leaders and members were taken into custody before the elections, which were boycotted by the main opposition alliance led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)”, the report said.
“BNP leader and two-time former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia was placed under de facto house arrest, with security forces surrounding her residence and blocking people from entering and leaving. Many opposition leaders and activists have gone into hiding,” the report added.
“While in some cases the government has acted appropriately to stop violence by some opposition forces, this spate of arrests is part of a pattern of weakening critics, limiting dissent, and consolidating ruling party power,” said Brad Adams.
“The Awami League claims that it is the leading democratic party in Bangladesh, but there is nothing democratic about this kind of widespread crackdown on critics.”
According to the report, as many as 150 people have been killed in political violence in recent months, much of it carried out by opposition activists. The Election Commission said that nearly 500 voting centers had to be closed because of the violence, including arson. Awami League activists have also engaged in attacks on opposition supporters.
Attacks on members of the Hindu community, allegedly by supporters of the BNP and the Jamaat-e-Islami, have been reported in the media. Many Hindus, Bangladesh’s largest religious minority, traditionally vote for the governing Awami League Party, the report added.
It mentioned that many senior opposition leaders from the BNP and thousands of activists were arrested in the run-up to the elections. Ahead of a December 29 BNP “March for Democracy,” hundreds were arrested, the report said.
Leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami party report being threatened with arrest. Many of its members have been arrested, while others have gone into hiding, it added.
Source: UNB Connect