HRW censures India, UK, US for silence over Bangladesh rights situation

Staff Correspondent | Update:

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has blamed Bangladesh's security forces for shooting deliberately opposition activists in the name of gunfight or cross-fire.

In its 2017 world report, the New York-based group slammed arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, extrajudicial killing and restrictions on the freedom of expression in the country.

"Security forces in Bangladesh are deliberately shooting members and supporters of opposition parties in the leg. Victims explained that police shot them in custody and then falsely claimed that they were shot in self-defense, in crossfire with armed criminals, or during violent protests," observed the report launched in Washington on Thursday.

Also, it pointed out, the government's actions like raids on militancy remained unclear "due to lack of transparency about security force abuses and the ongoing government clampdown on media".

The HRW report alleged India, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and countries with significant influence over the Bangladesh government, remained largely silent on the country’s human rights record in their public statements in 2016.

However, the report mentioned, the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights raised "concerns about the lack of fairness in the war crimes trials" and about arbitrary and illegal arrests, but, it added, the Bangladesh government ignored the statements.

"A new generation of authoritarian populists seeks to overturn the concept of human rights protections, treating rights not as an essential check on official power but as an impediment to the majority will,” wrote HRW executive director Kenneth Roth.

The report mentioned that the rise of populist leaders in the United States and Europe poses a dangerous threat to basic rights protections while encouraging abuse by autocrats around the world.

The HRW report also regretted that Bangladesh witnessed a spate of violent attacks against “secular bloggers, academics, gay rights activists, foreigners, and members of religious minorities in 2016.”

Several religious leaders were killed or injured in targeted attacks, allegedly by the same Islamist extremist groups that targeted secular writers, read the report.

It observed that human rights groups in Bangladesh faced constant obstacles, including escalating harassment and surveillance by the police. "A new law placed strong restrictions on receiving foreign funds without approval by the NGO Affairs Bureau within the prime minister’s office," it added.

Saying that journalists are also a common target, the report mentioned that several laws were proposed in 2016 to increase restrictions on freedom of expression.

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