Attacks on opposition contradict promises of fair elections: HRW

Human Rights Watch

Attacks on opposition contradict promises of fair elections: HRW

The international human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) has alleged that excessive force is being used against political protesters in Bangladesh. The organization said the Bangladesh government is promising the international community to hold free and fair elections. Oppressive attacks are being carried out on the opposition there. This is inconsistent with the promise of holding free and fair elections.

Apart from this, HRW said that the mass arrests of opposition leaders and activists are damaging the environment of free and fair elections. The New York-based human rights organization said these things in a statement on Wednesday.

In a statement, Meenakshi Ganguly, deputy director for Asia at HRW, said the brutal crackdown on political opponents in Bangladesh should be seen by international observers as a warning sign that the election was not democratic.

According to the statement, the Bangladesh Police indiscriminately used rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannonns against opposition supporters in late July. During this time opposition supporters were also beaten. The authorities have arrested more than 800 leaders and activists of the main opposition party Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in the last few days surrounding the July 29 program. It is apparently an attempt to target political opponents.

BNP leaders said that at least 100 of their supporters were injured in the violence during the protest. Videos of clashes between police and opposition supportars showed law enforcement officers using excessive force by beating and kicking people. The victims appeared to be unarmed. According to the police, the protesters pelted bricks at the police and attacked the police vehicle. At least 32 officers were injured.

These incidents of electoral harassment occurred during the visit of the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Eamon Gilmore, and at the end of the visit of the EU pre-election observation team.

Police said BNP was not allowed to hold the program on July 29. But law enforcement officials must respect the right of assembly. Apart from this, the use of force to disperse protesters should also comply with human rights standards unless the protests are legally prohibited.

As elections approach, Bangladeshi authorities must urgently ask the police to comply with international law on the use of force, Human Rights Watch said. It should also be made clear that those who do not follow the rules in this regard will be held accountable.

The international partners of the Bangladesh government, including the European Union, must publicly state strongly that failure to take strict and timely action in cases of serious rights violations in the run-up to the upcoming elections will have ramifications in other areas of cooperation, including trade facilities.

Meenakshi Ganguly said that the ruling Awami League government is well aware of the fact that the human rights situation in Bangladesh is under strict international scrutiny. So no one is so foolish as to think that the election of Bangladesh has been free and fair if the opposition has been neutralized through repressive mass arrests and violent crackdowns.

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