HRW accuses govt of disregarding allegations of grave rights violations

A Human Rights Watch report has blamed Bangladesh government for not addressing the incidents of rights violations which took place last year.

The report, published on Thursday, said the government ‘made clear in 2021 it has no intention of addressing a pattern of grave abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and enforced disappearances by its security forces.’

The reports also said the Bangladesh authorities 'cracked down on critics, journalists, and even children who criticized the government or dared to question its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.'

“Bangladesh authorities used the Covid-19 pandemic to send a chilling message that criticism of the ruling Awami League will be punished,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“Yet journalists, medical workers, and activists were highlighting the barriers to health care that many people across Bangladesh who died from the coronavirus had faced,” Adams was quoted as saying on Human Rights Watch website.

The HRW reviewed human rights practices in nearly 100 countries in the 752-page World Report 2022.

Executive director Kenneth Roth challenges the notion that autocracy is dominant in the world saying that large numbers of people have recently taken to the streets, even at the risk of being arrested or shot, showing that the appeal of democracy remains strong.

The report also mentioned the custodial death of writer Mushtaq Ahmed, arrest of journalist Rozina Islam.

“Mushtaq Ahmed, a writer, died in prison after being held in pretrial detention for nine months – during which he was allegedly tortured – for posting criticism on Facebook of the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. In May the authorities arrested Rozina Islam, a journalist, following her reporting on malpractices in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The authorities also arbitrarily arrested and prosecuted political critics under the Digital Security Act, and even targeted family members of diaspora journalists who criticized the government.”

About the relocation of Rohingyas to Bhasan Char island, the report said, “Bangladesh authorities had already relocated almost 20,000 refugees there in violation of its commitments to wait for an assessment of the island’s habitability, safety, sustainability, and protection needs. The February coup in Myanmar made the possibility of a safe and dignified return for the Rohingya even more remote.”

The HRW also mentioned the death of Rohingya rights activist Mohib Ullah, who was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar in September and deaths of seven In Rohingyas in an attack on an Islamic seminary in the camp in October.

“Rohingya activists remain at risk from militant groups, while security forces have arbitrarily detained refugees in a crackdown against those allegedly responsible for the violence,” the HRW said.

The report also mentioned the spate of attack on Hindu temples during Durga puja.

“In October four people died when police reportedly opened fire to contain a mob, and at least three more people died amid a spate of sectarian violence targeting Bangladesh’s Hindu minority. More than 100 were reported injured.”

The report also mentioned the protests erupted in the country following acquittal of all five men accused in the alleged gang-rape of two women in Dhaka in 2017.

“The judge appeared to blame the victims for taking a month to report the crime, denigrated their character, and, extraordinarily, recommended that the police should refuse to file any rape case that comes in over 72 hours after the incident,” the HRW report said adding, “The ruling comes more than a year after activists held protests across the country calling for the government to address an alarming rise in sexual violence against women and girls. The authorities have yet to pass a sexual harassment bill, provide witness protection, or revise discriminatory legislation.”