Crackdown on BNP protests: Use of lethal force deeply troubling
The United Nations special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, as well as four other special rapporteurs and working groups, had written to the government expressing deep concern following the crackdown on BNP rallies and protests across the country.
The letter, issued on December 27, 2022, was made public by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights yesterday.
"We are deeply concerned by the apparent use of excessive and lethal force by security forces against peaceful protesters across various districts in Bangladesh, including the use of teargas, live ammunition and birdshot, resulting in injuries of several protesters and the death of at least five individuals," read the letter.
"We are also deeply concerned at the allegations that live ammunition may have been used against protesters," it added.
"Firearms or lethal force may only be used in self-defence or in defence of others against imminent threat of death or serious injury and there must be no other feasible option. Based on the information received, it does not appear that the circumstances of these protests reached this threshold to make the use of force necessary and proportional," read the letter.
They listed the actions of law enforcers during the BNP rallies held nationwide, including in Bhola, Narayanganj, Dhaka, Munshiganj, and elsewhere, between July and December last year.
They noted that at least four protesters died while many were injured, including BNP leader Tabith Awal.
They said that this is a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), as well Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT).
The letter was also signed by the special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
"Failure to take all precautions practically possible in the planning, preparation and conduct of law enforcement operations with a view to avoiding unnecessary, excessive or otherwise unlawful use of force contravenes a state's obligation to prevent acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment within its jurisdiction," read the letter.
The letter also noted that activists of Bangladesh Chhatra League attacked protesters of Bangladesh Chhatra Odhikar Parishad while they were holding a vigil remembering slain Buet student Abrar Fahad.
"We are also concerned that supporters of one political party have been able to attack members of another political party … without police intervening to protect the individuals or to investigate potential criminal liability," said the letter.
"Law enforcement has a responsibility to prevent harm to others, and failing to do so is a contravention of a state's obligation of due diligence to protect citizens from harm," it added.
The letter also addressed how BNP activists have been facing arbitrary arrests, detention, and cases.
The UN is concerned by the "allegations of arbitrary arrests and detention of individuals, and the use of false charges, including against opposition political leaders and independent civil society groups, in relation to their participation in peaceful protests and their membership in an association.
"We are further troubled by reports that individuals faced physical violence from the authorities while in detention, and were also denied medical treatment," read the letter.
All of this will negatively impact Bangladesh's ability to provide free and fair elections in 2023, said the letter.
They urged the government to halt such violations and initiate investigations. The letter was also signed by the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and the working group on arbitrary detention.