OHCHR urges to ensure rights of peaceful assembly, expression

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has called upon the authorities in Bangladesh to maintain their human rights obligations, referring to recurring violence and police action in opposition rallies.

It also urged the government to allow the people to exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, according to a press release of Jeremy Laurence, spokesperson of UN Human Rights High Commissioner Volker Turk.

In the run up to the general election in December this year or January next year, the OHCHR urged all political parties, their supporters, and security forces to ensure a peaceful, inclusive, and safe environment, enabling a free and fair ballot.

Issued on Friday, the media release highlighted recent incidents of recurring violence at opposition rallies, where police were seen using rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons.

It also noted that the police, alongside men in plain clothing, have been seen using hammers, sticks, bats, and iron rods to beat protesters. Many opposition supporters - as well as some police members - received injuries.

It was pointed out in the release that senior opposition leaders have been beaten in broad daylight, and their homes raided by people claiming to be law enforcement personnel. Hundreds of opposition leaders and supporters have been arrested before and during the rallies.

Jeremy Laurence reminded the Bangladeshi authorities of their human rights obligations and called to allow the people to exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of opinion and expression.

He also urged the authorities to act diligently to protect against any attempts by third parties to suppress or limit the exercise of the basic rights.

The note urged the police to discharge their duties more cautiously and ensure that force is only used when strictly necessary. If the force becomes necessary, it should be in full compliance with the principles of legality, restraint, and proportionality.

Besides, incidents of excessive use of force must be promptly investigated, and those responsible held accountable, it added.

The OHCHR also called to ensure that all those canvassing ahead of next year’s ballot are assured a safe and peaceful environment that respects and promotes political plurality and the expression of diverse views, in full respect for fundamental rights and freedoms.