Bangladesh authorities must conduct prompt, thorough, impartial, and independent investigations into the death of at least 14 protesters in the country between March 26 and 28, said 11 human rights organisations in a joint statement yesterday.
The rights bodies, including Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and Amnesty International, also called upon the government to respect people's right to peaceful assembly and urged the international community to plead with Bangladeshi authorities to put an end to the "practice of torturing and forcibly disappearing opposition activists".
Mentioning media reports, the joint statement said between March 20 and 26, police and members of the ruling Awami League attacked a series of protests across Bangladesh, organised by different political and civil society groups, beat up and injured hundreds of largely peaceful protesters.
In the aftermath of the protests, at least five opposition activists were allegedly abducted by members of law enforcement agencies in conditions that may amount to enforced disappearance.
Four of them were presented before the court and charged with violence after more than 24 hours of incommunicado detention while one was freed after more than 80 hours of his disappearance, the statement said.
Activists detained in the context of the protests have also raised allegations of torture and other ill-treatment while in custody.
In addition to violently cracking down on protesters, the authorities have also restricted high-speed internet access and blocked access to social media platforms, including Facebook and Messenger, from March 26 evening to March 30 evening without any formal notice, in contravention of the right to freedom of expression and hindering the ability of people to organise protests and report human rights violations.
"The use of unnecessary and excessive force by law enforcement agencies must end immediately and all those responsible must be identified and brought to justice in fair trials, without recourse to the death penalty," the statement said.
The ongoing crackdown and mass arbitrary arrests of peaceful protesters must stop and the allegations of torture and enforced disappearances of several protesters must be investigated, it added.
Bangladeshi authorities must respect, protect and fulfill people's human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and must immediately release all those who have been detained and drop all charges against them, the rights bodies demanded.
The organisations called on the UN and the international community to urge the Bangladeshi authorities to respect people's rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
The other right organisations that sponsored the joint statement are: Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM ASIA), Asian Human Rights Commission, Asian Network for Free Elections, Capital Punishment Justice Project (CPJP), CIVICUS, Eleos Justice, International Federation for Human Rights, Robert F Kennedy Human Rights, The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances, and World Organisation Against Torture.