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Stop the mass arrests in Bangladesh!

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12, 000 people in various parts of Bangladesh have been arrested or detained in prison since 31 May under the Emergency Power Rules. These mass arrests clearly shows that the authorities are trying to prevent political protests and oppress the views of civil society. Political activists and human rights defenders are crying foul, saying that they have become victims of a blanket arrest. FORUM-ASIA condemns the action by the authorities, urging them to stop the mass arrests and release all detainees who were victims of arbitrary arrest.

Stop the mass arrests in Bangladesh!

(Bangkok) FORUM-ASIA condemns the arrest of 12, 000 people in various parts of Bangladesh since 31 May under the Emergency Power Rules. These mass arrests are a clear indication that the Bangladeshi authorities are trying to frustrate impending political protests, creating a severe hindrance to the people’s civil and political rights.

These repressive measures by the army backed caretaker Government in Dhaka is unleashing its reign of terror against the people, while grossly violating their human rights and fundamental freedoms to expression and assembly, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Government crackdown began on the night of May 30, where in less than 24 hours, 1,394 persons, including local leaders, political activists and government representatives were sent arrested and sent to prison. They were arrested mainly for violation of Emergency Power Rules, stealing and robbery. Some were arrested as they were listed as criminals, police sources say.

According to the authorities “improving the country's law and order situation and creating congenial atmosphere for the general elections due in December is the only objective of the drive".

However, human rights defenders and political activists argued that they were victims of the drive of blanket arrest. Several leaders from political parties at grassroots level, trade unions and student organisations, have gone into hiding to avoid the wave of mass arrests, which is expected to last until end of June.

Odhikar, FORUM-ASIA’s member organisation in Bangladesh , issued a statement on 2 June (Monday), condemning the arrests and detentions, while reminding the international community that past governments have carried out similar mass arrests although the act was clearly a violation of High Court Division guidelines and laws.

On 4 June, a person, who claimed to be the Sub Inspector of Rapid Action Battalion called at Odhikar Office at around 2.45 p.m. and requested for information on the organisation’s activities. He was instead advised to visit Odhikar's website.

 FORUM-ASIA urged the Government of Bangladesh to release all those arrested without a valid reason and to stop the mass arrests. FORUM-ASIA is also concerned that these massive arrests, in addition to violating the people’s fundamental rights, will deepen the political crisis, worsen the human rights situation and will result in anything but a free and fair environment for the upcoming polls.