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Rights group appeals to Bangladesh to stop extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests

Rights group appeals to Bangladesh to stop extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests

Bangladesh must put an end to alleged extra-judicial killings and arbitrary arrests by security forces and probe reports of human rights violations during an extended state of emergency, a global human rights watchdog said.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said at least 19 people were reported killed by security officials since the state of emergency was declared on Jan. 11 to quell weeks of violent protests ahead of now-cancelled Jan. 22 polls.
"The government's first step must be to issue a direct order not to kill suspects in custody," said Brad Adams, Director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division in a statement seen Friday.
"The government should then aggressively investigate and hold all those who violated the law accountable, or its reputation inside Bangladesh and abroad will suffer."
At least four people died in army custody, while the rest had been in police custody or held by the Rapid Action Battalion, an elite anti-crime task force, the statement said.
Army troops have been constitutionally empowered to arrest anybody without a warrant, while the state of emergency curtails many basic civil liberties for Bangladesh's population of 144 million.
The watchdog also expressed concerns over arbitrary arrests, including politicians belonging to almost every major political party.
Local media reports and police estimates say thousands of people have been rounded up by security officials since Jan. 11 as part of a nationwide anti-crime drive against criminals and "disruptive elements" that could hinder a new election in Bangladesh.
"Arrests must be carried out in accordance with the law and due process, not by rounding up huge numbers of people who may or may not have broken the law," said Adams.
Bangladesh has been crippled by a political stalemate since October when Prime Minister Khaleda Zia stepped down at the end of her five-year term and handed power to an interim government to steer the country through national elections.
A 19-party political alliance led by Zia's arch rival, Sheikh Hasina, however, accused the caretaker administration of favoring Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party and called for the interim head, President Iajuddin Ahmed, to step down. They also accused several election officials of bias, said the electoral list was flawed and called for a postponement of the polls until a new list could be made.
Weeks of street protests followed in which at least 34 people were killed.
Ahmed finally stepped down as the interim leader, declared the state of emergency and appointed a new leader Fakhruddin Ahmed to hold the new elections.
Fakhruddin Ahmed, a respected economist and former World Bank official, on Jan. 21 pledged new polls within the "shortest possible time" but did not say when the state of emergency would end.


Updated : 2021-03-01 10:08 GMT+08:00