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Bangladesh: Crackdown on opposition leaders and violence must end for the facilitation of an inclusive political process

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(Bangkok, 8 January 2014) – The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), a regional human rights group with 47 member organisations from 16 countries across Asia, expresses serious concern over continuing crackdown on opposition leaders and the ensuing violence perpetrated by different political forces centering recent elections.

Over the last few weeks, violence in Bangladesh has reached unprecedented heights. The conclusion of the poorly contested 10th Parliamentary election on 5 January 2014 has created an environment of chaos and destruction.

The crackdown on the opposition parties that boycotted election has further worsened the situation. The detective branch of the police has picked up four leaders of the main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party on 7 January 2014, a day after results of the 10th Parliamentary elections were announced. One of them was released few hours later and two were taken for remand on 8 January, while the other remains detained. The government has detained several other opposition leaders and their supporters over the last few months. Notably, Ms. Khaleda Zia, the BNP chief has been wrongfully confined at her residence since 28 December 2013.

The 5 January election was marred by violence, killing of government officials, burning of few hundred educational institutes to be used as polling centers, heavy casualties and brutal clampdown by security forces. This has been regarded as the deadliest election in Bangladesh which has claimed at least 20 lives on the day of election, of which 16 succumbed to police firing.

β€œThe government and opposition parties should initiate and work towards creating an enabling environment for dialogue. To that end, the government should refrain from the crackdown on opposition leaders –activists and allow them to assemble and express their dissent in peaceful manner,” urged Evelyn Balais-Serrano, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA.

Reports indicate that opposition entities and their supporters have been inciting violence. As anticipated by many, the Hindu minorities have been targets of brutal attacks after the January 5 election. While the security forces have retaliated in disproportionately fierce fashion in a misguided attempt to quell protests, they have failed to provide adequate protection to the minorities. β€œTargeting minorities and other vulnerable groups is inexcusable and a gross violation of human rights. Opposition parties must denounce all acts of violence and must refrain from causing any harm to civilians,” insisted Balais-Serrano.

β€œA strong and active opposition is important for the function of a democracy and acts as a crucial component in ensuring accountability. The government must ensure that restrictions be removed and that opposition parties are able to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” added Balais-Serrano.

We call upon the government of Bangladesh to create a conducive environment for initiating an inclusive political process which will negate the flaws inherent in the 5 January 2014 elections. We further urge all political entities and actors to fully participate in a dialogue culminating in a participatory election, to this end all acts of violence and aggression must be avoided.

For further inquiries, please contact:

  1. Gayatri Khandhadai, South Asia Programme Officer, [email protected], +66 906538263
  2. Sayeed Ahmed, Country Programme Manager, [email protected] +66 842176150