The government has increased arbitrary arrests and detentions along with violations of human rights like enforced disappearance and use of torture ahead of the general election, the Asian Legal Resource Centre said on Thursday.
The Hong Kong-based non-governmental organisation in its written submission to the 39th regular session of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council also said, ‘There are secret detention centres across the country, where law enforcement agencies hold people incommunicado’.
‘The incumbent government, which seriously lacks legitimacy because of its renewal of power through the sham election of 2014, has intensified the practice of arbitrary arrests and detentions along with other gross violations of human rights such as enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, and torture, leaving little room for opposition or debate’, it said.
The ALRC drew the attention of the Human Rights Council and the Special Procedures to the ‘massive arbitrary detention occurring in Bangladesh’.
‘The country’s law-enforcement agencies, constituting the Police, the Rapid Action Battalion and the Directorate General Forces Intelligence (DGFI), have been continuously arresting and detaining people arbitrarily’.
‘Bangladesh’s overcrowded prisons are presently housing over 10,000 opposition activists. Since protests began in mid-February 2018 for reforming quota system in government jobs, there has been an escalation of arbitrary arrest and detention’, it said.
The situation further deteriorated with recent student protests at the deaths of several students in a road accident on July 29. Scores of young students of different colleges and universities were arbitrarily detained through ‘block raids’ conducted by law-enforcement agencies, it added.
‘The actual number of the detainees could not be ascertained as law-enforcement agencies insisted on a media blackout during the raids and afterwards. The media has only been allowed to publish information provided by the law-enforcement agencies’, it said.
‘One prominent arbitrary detention that occurred during the student protests is that of Shahidul Alam, globally reputed photographer and activist, under a trumped up cybercrime case’, it said.
‘Police allegiance to politicians also makes opposition activists prime targets for arrest and detention. Bangladesh police act as the musclemen of ruling political groups, coming down hard on dissenting voices and whistle-blowers’, ALRC added.
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