7 March 2017, Tue, 12:24

Bangladesh uses counterterrorism efforts to justify civil rights restriction: State Department observes

The United States has said that the government of Bangladesh used counterterrorism efforts to justify restrictions of civil and political rights.

The government responded with a strong anti-militancy drive, which human rights groups claim has resulted in increased extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions for the purpose of extortion, enforced disappearances, torture, and other abuses of human rights, the US said in a report released on Friday.

The most significant human rights problems were extrajudicial killings, arbitrary or unlawful detentions, and forced disappearances by government security forces; the killing of members of marginalised groups and others by groups espousing extremist views; early and forced marriage; gender-based violence, especially against women and children; and poor working conditions and labor rights abuses, according to the executive summary of the 2016 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

Other human rights problems included torture and abuse by security forces; arbitrary arrests; weak judicial capacity and independence; lengthy pretrial detentions; politically motivated violence; official corruption; and restrictions on online speech and the press. Authorities infringed on citizens' privacy rights, said the report released by the US Department of State.

Some nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) faced continued legal and informal restrictions on their activities. Discrimination against persons with disabilities was a problem, especially for children seeking admission to public school.

Instances of societal violence against religious and ethnic minorities persisted. Discrimination against persons based on their sexual orientation increased.
Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces, the report observed.

Extremist organisations claiming affiliation with Da'esh and al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) increased their activities in the country, executing high-profile attacks on religious minorities; academics; foreigners; human rights activists; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community members; and other groups, it claimed.

There were reports of widespread impunity for security force abuses, it said mentioning that government took limited measures to investigate and prosecute cases of abuse and killing by security forces, including through the Internal Enquiry Cell of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).

Public distrust of police and security services deterred many from approaching government forces for assistance or to report criminal incidents. In several instances, the government blamed victims of extremist attacks, increasing the impunity of attackers, the report observed.

The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage, but recent elections were marred by government tampering and violence, the report said.

Government restriction on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly limited the ability of opposition party members to participate effectively in the democratic process, it claimed.