Bangladesh violently cracked down on criticism of the ruling Awami League ahead of national elections in 2018, Human Rights Watch said yesterday in its World Report 2019.
Instead of responding to calls for accountability, law enforcement agencies engaged in violence, torture, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings and the victims included political opposition, journalists, members of nongovernmental groups, and students, said the report.
“The 2018 election was marred by serious allegations of electoral fraud, including attacks on opposition members, voter intimidation, and partisan behaviour by election officials.” said the international rights body.
Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW, said, “The Awami League may have won the election, but to do so, the government criminalised free expression and lodged blatantly trumped-up cases against thousands of opposition supporters.”
“The government needs to recognise the democratic value in free expression, rule of law, and a vibrant civil society.”
In the 674-page World Report 2019, its 29th edition, the global rights watchdog reviewed human rights practices in more than 100 countries.
The HRW said the law enforcement agencies killed more than 100 people and arrested thousands in Bangladesh's “war on drugs.”
Student protesters were beaten up by ruling party supporters and were tortured in police custody. The government locked up hundreds of political opposition supporters on flimsy allegations ahead of the elections, it said.
The ICT Act, and the Digital Security Act, which replaced it, were used to arrest social media critics of the government, the prime minister, and her relatives, it added.