The UK has lauded Bangladesh for continuously playing a vital role in hosting the Rohingyas, but observed that the overall human rights situation in the country in 2019 saw no improvement.
In its annual Foreign and Commonwealth Office Report on Human Rights & Democracy, the UK said the number of death sentences issued in Bangladesh increased -- two executions were carried out in Bangladesh in 2019.
At least 327 death sentences were issued in 2019 compared to 319 in 2018. In November, six of the seven people convicted over the Holey Artisan terrorist attack in 2016 received death sentences, said the report published on Thursday.
"Reports of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and attacks on journalists and others continued during the year," says the report that the UK considers an essential guide to the British government's work and to the global human rights landscape over the year.
In July, the Bangladesh government submitted initial country report to the UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) on measures it had taken to uphold its commitments under the "Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment".
It was welcomed but the Committee raised allegations of widespread and routine commission of torture and ill treatment by law enforcement officials, and the absence of statistical data on the implementation of the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act, the report said.
During the UNCAT review, Bangladesh stressed that it had promoted the gradual replacement of the death penalty by other forms of punishment, although it had not taken any steps to abolish the death penalty, the UK report adds.
Stating that violence by organisations associated with political parties continued throughout 2019, it mentioned how in October of 2019, a student from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology was beaten to death by members of the student wing of the ruling Awami League, allegedly for posting online content which was critical of the government.
It said that under the 2018 Digital Security Act (DSA), 42 people were arrested, often on charges of hurting religious sentiments, or undermining law and order. The provisions of the DSA were criticised as empowering the government to arrest and detain journalists, human rights activists, and political opponents.
In April, Bangladesh dropped four places to 150 (out of 180) in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index -- its lowest ever position.
Throughout the year, UK ministers met opposition politicians, media representatives, and indigenous leaders, and in April the then Minister for Asia, Mark Field, raised human rights concerns with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the report said.
Referring to Amnesty International, the report said Bangladesh's former Prime Minister and leader of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, Khaleda Zia, imprisoned since February 2018 on corruption charges, was not receiving adequate health care.
It said gender-based violence remained a concern, mentioning the murder of Nusrat Jahan Rafi, a female madrasa student who complained to the police about harassment by her principal. Women habitually are harassed in public, making travelling on foot or public transport difficult.
The UK report said Bangladesh continued to play a vital role in hosting a significant number of the Rohingya people and maintained its commitment to the voluntary, safe, and dignified return of the Rohingyas to Myanmar.
However, there were reports of significant criminality in the refugee camps in Cox's Bazar, where approximately 855,000 Rohingya refugees are living. These included around 30 murders, gender-based violence, abduction, illegal drug trading, and human trafficking.
In September, the government introduced restrictions on access to the internet in the camps, citing security concerns following a peaceful rally in the Kutupalong camp on 25 August – a decision that was criticized by the rights groups.