Bangladesh takes little steps to prosecute abuses, killings by security forces: US

US acting secretary of State John J Sullivan. Photo: UNB
US acting secretary of State John J Sullivan. Photo: UNB

The government of Bangladesh took limited measures to investigate and prosecute cases of abuse and killing by security forces in 2017, said a US report on Human Rights Practices released Friday.

US acting secretary of State John J Sullivan at a press conference released the report, according to UNB news agency.

While briefing journalists, the acting secretary condemned the brutal attacks on the Rohingya community in Myanmar. "We condemn the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya in Burma and the atrocities committed against them, and we are working with partners to address that crisis," he said.

He further said those responsible for the violations, abuses, and attacks must be held accountable.

More than 670,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in recent months. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been internally displaced.

In the report, it was stated that public distrust of police and security services of Bangladesh deterred many from approaching government forces for assistance or to report criminal incidents.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces, the report added.

The most significant human rights issues included extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary or unlawful detentions, forced disappearances by government security forces and restrictions on civil liberties, including freedom of speech, press, and the activities of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

A lack of freedom to participate in the political process; corruption; violence and discrimination based on gender, religious affiliation, caste, tribe, including indigenous persons, and sexual orientation and gender identity also persisted and, in part, due to a lack of accountability are also noted in the report.

Trafficking in persons remained a serious problem as did restrictions on worker's rights and the worst forms of child labour, the report said.

There were reports of widespread impunity for security force abuses, too.

The report in its press and media freedom section said both print and online independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views.

However, the report says, media outlets that criticised the government have experienced a negative government pressure.

The government maintained editorial control over the Bangladesh public television station (BTV) and mandated that private channels broadcast government content at no charge.

Civil society said that political interference influenced the licensing process, since all television channel licenses granted by the government were for stations supporting the ruling party.

The constitution provides for freedom of speech, including for the press, but the government sometimes failed to respect this right, says the US report.

It said there were significant limitations on freedom of speech.

Some journalists self-censored their criticisms of the government due to harassment and fear of reprisal.

The constitution equates criticism of the constitution with sedition, the report adds.