The overall rights situation in Bangladesh was alarming in 2013, amid continuous political violence throughout the year, says an annual report published by Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) yesterday.
Although some steps were taken to establish and ensure the economic, social and cultural rights of people, political violence and the deteriorating law and order situation created panic and a sense of insecurity among people, the report mentions.
Forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and deaths in police custody continued along with communal violence, harassment and killing of journalists, gender-based violence and violation of workers' rights, it adds.
Abu Ahmed Faizul Kabir, senior investigator of the rights organisation, presented the summary report styled “Human Rights Situation in Bangladesh, 2013” at a press conference at Dhaka Reporters' Unity in the capital.
The report highlights as the most positive step the continuation of the trial of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and as the most disastrous event the Rana Plaza incident in which 1,134 workers of six garment factories lost their lives.
The two international crimes tribunals gave verdicts against six war criminals last year. One of them, Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah, was executed after his case went through the due legal procedures.
Centring on the verdicts and rows between political parties over the upcoming general elections, as many as 848 political clashes took place last year. The clashes left 507 people, including 15 members of the police and two of the BGB, dead and 22,407 people injured, says the report.
Since the announcement of the polls schedule on November 25, over 100 people have died across the country during hartals and blockades enforced by the opposition from the following day.
Seventy-five of them died during hartals and blockades between November 25 and December 15, while 30 others died during clashes sparked by the execution of Mollah, the report adds.
Clashes took place in around 50 districts during the period, the worst of which was Satkhira, a district that virtually turned into a battlefield, says the ASK report.
Thirty-seven people died across the country in clashes that ensued when the verdict on Jamaat leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee was passed in early March.
Due to violence following the Hefajat-e Islam rally at Motijheel Shapla Chattar, 22 people died on May 5 and 27 more the next day in different parts of the country. An injured Hefajat activist died on May 7 at a hospital in Comilla, according to the report.
The report points out a disturbing trend of communal violence in 2013.
Temples and houses along with shops and businesses of minority communities, especially Hindus, were vandalised and torched following the verdicts on war criminals.
As many as 278 houses, 208 business places and 495 temples belonging to Hindus were reportedly vandalised and torched.
Such acts of violence, which happened in more than 30 districts, were fuelled by religious fundamentalists and political parties.
Militancy may rise in the country if the major political parties fail to reach an understanding, said Noor Khan, acting executive director of ASK.
"While major political parties squabbled over different issues throughout the year, there were attempts by religion-based parties to rise," he said.
The law enforcement agencies were responsible for extrajudicial killings of 72 people in the year, in addition to illegal torture and harassment of countless others, the report says.
As many as 335 cases of deaths and torture by Border Security Force were reported last year. Twenty-six people were murdered, 84 tortured and 175 abducted by the Indian BSF, according to the report.
Three journalists were killed and at least 280 were subjected to harassment and assault.
The ASK report mentions rapes of 812 women in the past year. Of them, 87 were killed and 14 committed suicide.
Besides, 703 women were subjected to violence at home, including those who had dowry-related issues.
As many as 162 indigenous families took shelter in the nearby jungle and on the other side of the border after miscreants set fire to their houses in Matiranga, Khagrachhari, on August 3.