‘Last parliamentary election not considered free and fair by observers’

The US 2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

The 11th parliamentary election, held in December 2018, was not considered free and fair by observers due to reported irregularities, including ballot box stuffing and intimidation of opposition polling agents and voters, said in the Bangladesh section in 2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

The US state department published the report, based on human rights information from 198 countries and regions, in its website on Monday.

The ‘2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Bangladesh’ section said, “Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; forced disappearance; torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrests or detentions; political prisoners or detainees; transnational repression against individuals in another country; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; punishment of family members for offenses allegedly committed by a relative; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence or threats of violence against journalists, unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists, censorship, and enforcement of or threat to enforce criminal libel laws to limit expression."

It also said there are: "Serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organisation, funding, or operation of nongovernmental organisations and civil society organisations; restrictions on refugees’ freedom of movement; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; serious government corruption; serious government restrictions on or harassment of domestic and international human rights organisations.”

The report mentioned “lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence, including domestic and intimate partner violence, sexual violence, workplace violence, child, early, and forced marriage, and other forms of such violence; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of ethnic minority groups; significant restrictions on independent trade unions and workers’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining; and existence of the worst forms of child labour.”

Speaking about the US state department report, opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) standing committee member Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury told Prothom Alo, “No one inside or outside of the country has any doubt that the last (parliamentary) election was not free and fair. In this context, the US state department report reflects the truth about the election in Bangladesh.”

Criticising the report, ruling Awami League (AL) joint general secretary Mahbub ul Alam Hanif on Monday night told Prothom Alo, “If the US has taken allegations of any political party of Bangladesh into consideration to prepare this report, then its credibility is questionable.”

The US report said, “There were numerous reports of widespread impunity for security force abuses and corruption. The government took few measures to identify, investigate, prosecute, and punish officials or security force members who committed human rights abuses or engaged in corruption.”

“According to international and local civil society, activists, and media, impunity was a pervasive problem in the security forces, including within but not limited to the RAB, Border Guards Bangladesh, Detective Branch of Police, and other units.

“Politicisation of crimes, corruption, and lack of independent accountability mechanisms were significant factors contributing to impunity, including for custodial torture.

“While police are required to conduct internal investigations of all significant abuses, civil society organisations alleged investigative mechanisms were not independent and did not lead to justice for victims,” it added.