Stop to arbitrary arrests:HRW
The Bangladeshi authorities should investigate attacks on secular writers and others, and identify and prosecute the perpetrators but must stop arbitrarily arresting people without proper evidence of a crime, the Human Rights Watch said yesterday.
“Between June 10 and 16, 2016 security forces have reportedly arrested over 11,000 in connection with a spate of murders of bloggers with secular or atheist leanings, non-Muslims, members of the LGBT community, and other progressive or liberal thinkers,” the New York based rights body said.
Those detained should either be charged on the basis of credible evidence of criminal activities and brought immediately before a judge, or be immediately released, the HRW said.
“After a slow and complacent response to these horrific attacks, Bangladesh's security forces are falling back on old habits and rounding up the 'usual suspects' instead of doing the hard work of carrying out proper investigations,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW.
“The government has an obligation to put an end to these murders and hold the perpetrators to account, but it must do so through proper procedures set out in its own criminal code as well as in international law.”
The wave of targeted killings of bloggers, secularists, and religious minorities began in 2013 and has escalated in recent months. To date, more than 50 have been killed, often through machete attacks in public spaces.
Many of these killings have subsequently been claimed by Daesh (ISIS) or Ansar al-Islam, a Bangladeshi militant group linked to Al Qaeda, but their involvement has not been established. The Bangladesh government denies the presence of both groups in the country.
HRW said the authorities were initially slow to respond to these murders, making only a handful of arrests in a few cases. However, following the high profile murders of two gay rights activists on April 25, and the wife of a senior police officer on June 5, the government announced a new crackdown on extremists to bring an end to these killings, and the mass arrests began, it said.
On mass arbitrary arrests, it said given the well documented history of impunity for torture and other custodial abuse in Bangladesh, there was a real risk of harm during detention and interrogation.
“The mass arrest of thousands upon thousands within the course of a few days is a familiar scene in Bangladesh, but does little to inspire confidence either that these ghastly killings will stop or that due process will be followed,” Adams said.