Government must probe allegations over political dissent

Published: 00:00, Dec 13,2019


THE Bangladesh Nationalist Party on Wednesday came up with some allegations that the government needs to investigate in the furtherance of the rule of law and in the interest of a healthy political culture. The party, which has been in the opposition camp for about a decade, has said that the government presided over by the Awami League has prosecuted about 3.5 million people in about 100,000 cases of political nature in the past decade. The party’s secretary general — who spoke at a discussion on the ‘absence of democracy and systematic human rights violation by state apparatus’ that marked International Human Rights Day and the launch of a party publication titled Absence of Democracy and Systematic Human Rights Violation by State Apparatus — has further said that 1,526 leaders and activists of the opposition camps were ‘killed by the government and the Awami League’ in 2009–2019 while 781 others, who included 423 leaders and activists of the Bangladesh Nationalist party, were subjected to enforced disappearance. With the issue of extrajudicial killing and enforced disappearances having remained heavily clouded, such a situation as presented by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party warrants that the government should immediately set out investigations to find out if the allegations are true.

While the prosecution of such a large number of people in 10 years allegedly on charge of having political dissent, as the Bangladesh Nationalist Party claims, could be reflective of a severe high-handedness of the incumbents, the extrajudicial killing and involuntary disappearances of such a large number of people could readily speak of a lawlessness that the government has failed to attend to. Human rights abuse, extrajudicial killing and enforced disappearance that have taken place in Bangladesh also raised European Union concern in October, prompting a call for Bangladesh to demonstrate a substantive improvement in political, civil, and human and labour rights situation for the preferential treatment that Bangladesh has received in EU markets to continue beyond 2020. The UN Committee Against Torture in a statement in August urged the Bangladesh government to acknowledge that torture would not be tolerated under any circumstances and to ensure that the authorities, through an independent agency, carry out prompt, impartial and effective criminal investigation of all complaints of torture, including disappearances and extrajudicial killing. The Committee Against Torture also advised Bangladesh to ratify the Optional Protocol under the Convention Against Torture, to which Bangladesh is yet to be a party, to establish a national preventive mechanism.

The government, in such a situation that generates rights abuse furore both at home and abroad, must act to stop such violations of human rights that have continued in the form of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killing, arbitrary arrests and unacknowledged detention. While the government must stop showing high-handedness to political opposition, as the absence of dissent makes democracy a dead affair, it must also take early steps in earnest to end enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killing and other rights violations that largely leave scopes for abuse and misuse while they trample the rule of law.

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