Human rights situation sees no improvement: MSF

Rights body Manabadhikar Shongskriti Foundation (MSF) has said the human rights situation in the country has seen not much headway. Freedom of speech of citizens is being curbed and the right to express opinion in politics is being shrunk.

MSF came up with the observation in its annual report delivered to media on Friday.

The report signed by the organisation’s founding president Sultana Kamal said, political and civic rights did not see any headway in 2022 rather the rights situation has deteriorated in almost all aspects.

Political violence increased, political rallies were thwarted, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings did not cease, journalists were harassed, filing of cases under Digital Security Act increased and custodial death has increased, the report alleged.

The report termed fictitious cases as a matter of concern saying that a total of 312 ‘fictitious cases’ were filed against BNP leaders-activists between 22 August and 29 December. A total of 8,486 named and 25,115 unnamed people were made accused in these cases. As many as 1,309 BNP leaders-activists were arrested including the party’s secretary general and they are being denied bail. This wholesale arrest is curbing freedom of expression and freedom of opinion.

The report alleged that police and Awami League men carried various activities to thwart opposition men from joining rallies. The question that is being asked everywhere is whether the police has become a force of the ruling party.

Referring to media reports, the MSF said a total of 22 incidents of crossfire or encounter took place in the country in 2022. In these incidents, a woman, 12 youth and an official of Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) were killed. One army man and three RAB members were injured and 14 others including a woman were critically injured.

The MSF said the situation in the field of journalism was very alarming this year as the incidents of assaulting journalists increased remarkably. A journalist – Mohiuddin Naeem – was killed while performing his professional duties and 266 on-duty newsmen were assaulted in various ways. 

Some 39 ruling party leaders and 20 policemen are among the people involved in the torture and harassment that the journalists endured in the year. 

A total of 77 people have been arrested in 82 cases filed under the digital security act (DSA) this year. The poll-time violence killed some 50, including two children, and injured at least 1,541 people. 

The outgoing year witnessed 78 incidents where religious and ethnic minorities have been harassed in various ways.  Two temples were set on fire, idols of 22 temples were vandalised, and donation boxes of two temples were looted in the year. Also, there were 11 incidents of vandalism and setting fire to residences.  

The MSF prepared the monitoring report on the basis of information carried by the national dailies and later verified almost all of them through local human rights defenders.

In addition to monitoring, the human rights watchdog made several recommendations to improve the country's human rights situation, including playing a humane and sensitive role in suppressing political demonstrators without using excessive force, refraining from filing alleged fictitious cases and arrests in the cases, and protecting the press freedom.