Human Rights Watch said on Friday that the security forces of Bangladesh had been arresting and intimidating opposition figures and threatening freedom of expression ahead of national elections scheduled for December 30.
New York-based international rights group also called on the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, India, China, and other countries to press the prime minister Sheikh Hasina-led government to ensure free and fair elections.
‘The crackdown, and the broad and vaguely worded laws that facilitate it, are contributing to an environment of fear. Institutions including the judiciary and the national election commission do not appear to be fully prepared to independently and fairly resolve disputes around campaigns and elections, such as on registration, candidacies, and results,’ said a HRW statement.
‘The Awami League government has been systematically cracking down on independent and opposition voices to ensure that the ruling party faces no obstacles to total political control,’ said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
‘Members and supporters of the main opposition parties have been arrested, killed, even disappeared, creating an atmosphere of fear and repression that is not consistent with credible elections,’ he added.
The Bangladesh authorities should end the crackdown on the political opposition and on free expression ahead of the national elections to ensure Bangladeshis their internationally protected right to choose their government, Human Rights Watch said.
‘Human Rights Watch research from October to early December found repeated instances of arbitrary security force arrest and detention of protesters and political opposition figures, and acts of violence and intimidation by members of the ruling party’s student and youth wings,’ said the statement.
‘Serious problems with the electoral process include surveillance, intimidation, detention, and politically motivated prosecution of key opposition members including party polling agents. Other major concerns include a crackdown on independent media and repressive laws restricting speech, association, and assembly,’ said the rights defender.
‘The Awami League, which came into office unchallenged five years ago, has since made a mockery of democratic rights, and now donors should make every effort to restore human rights protections,’ the statement observed.
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