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Civil and political rights crushed in Bangladesh: Briefing in Washington

02 December 2015,Wednesday, 15:33

Speakers at a briefing in United States on human rights in Bangladesh said rights situation here have alarmingly deteriorated and people’s political rights are now crushed.

The briefing on the shrinking space for civil society titled 'Human Rights in Bangladesh' was held at Rayburn House Office Building in Washington on Tuesday.

Rafida Bonya Ahmed, wife of slain writer-blogger Avijit Roy, Sahar Chaudhry, Senior Policy Analyst, US Commission for International Religious Freedom, Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Director, Free Expression Programs, PEN American Center, Bharath Gopalaswamy, Director, South Asia Center, Atlantic Council took part in the briefing.

Congressman James P McGovern, Co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission delivered the opening remark at the briefing moderated by Michael De Dora, Director, Office of Public Policy, Center for Inquiry.

James P McGovern said the government of Bangladesh has shrunk the space for opposition political parties.

“Opposition rallies have been restricted or broken up by state security forces, leading to mass arrests as well as deaths, while human rights defenders that document abuses have been threatened or detained and often assaulted themselves,” he said.

McGovern further said there have been reports of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances.
McGovern said in the power struggle between the major political parties—the Awami League and the Bangladesh National Party—civil society often gets caught in the crossfire.

He said additional concerns have been raised by the government's response to protests and dissent.

“With the news that transnational terror networks— including Al Qaeda and ISIS—are present in Bangladesh, the challenges to stability and democracy are likely to intensify.”

Referring to executions of Jamaat-e-Islami leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, he said, “Two opposition leaders were executed by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) for war crimes. But credible observers—including the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International—have criticized the trials as lacking fair trial and due process standards.”

He went on to say, “As Co-Chairs of the Commission, Congressman Pitts and I joined many others, including former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Stephen Rapp, in calling on Bangladesh to halt the executions because of the due process issues. Unfortunately, our calls were not heeded.”

Michael De Dora said over the past two years the human rights situation in Bangladesh has worsened.

“This deterioration has been marked by the five gruesome murders of secular writers and publishers this year alone,” he said, adding, “civil and political rights are undermined in Bangladesh. Protests against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Awami League party have been shut down, critical views censored, and their authors arrested or sometimes disappeared.”

De Dora further said that “if the human rights situation in Bangladesh worsens — if terror groups such as Ansarullah Bangla Team and al Qaeda and ISIS are allowed to roam more freely in, and take more control over the country — the global community will soon have a much bigger problem on our hands than a series of gruesome attacks in Bangladesh.”


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