The United States in its annual report on global human rights has said the Awami League government limited the lawful right to peaceful assembly.
Referring to human rights NGOs, US Acting Secretary of State John J Sullivan said in the report on Bangladesh’s human rights situation in 2017 that authorities “continued using approval provisions to disallow gatherings by opposition groups”.
Sullivan mentioned the BNP as the main opposition and Jamaat as an NGO, which was once a political party. The official opposition party, the Jatiya Party, which had 36 elected seats, was also part of the ruling coalition, he added.
“Occasionally, police or ruling party activists used force to disperse demonstrations,” the report says.
It says police prevented opposition party members from holding events on multiple occasions in 2017.
It gives as an example the police denial of permission to the ‘labour committee’ of the BNP to hold a rally in Dhaka acknowledging Labour Day on May 1.
Government-affiliated groups, however, were allowed to host public events, it adds.
He also condemned what he called “ethnic cleansing” of Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar, and said those responsible for attacks against the Rohingya should be held accountable.
The report says police did not allow members of the Jamaat-e-Islami to meet, even for private or indoor meetings.
It gives the detention of nine Jamaat members, including its chief Maqbul Ahmed, Secretary General Shafiqur Rahman and several other top leaders of the party, on charges of devising plans to create instability in the country.The US published the country-wise reports on Friday, labelling China, Russia, Iran and North Korea as “morally reprehensible” governments that it said violated human rights within their borders on a daily basis, making them “forces of instability”.
Sullivan also singled out Syria, Myanmar, Turkey and Venezuela as nations with poor human rights records.
Improved human rights in Uzbekistan, Liberia and Mexico were global “bright spots,” Sullivan added.
In the 41-page report on Bangladesh, Sullivan said the government accused BNP and Jamaat leaders of violence, criminal and terrorism charges in a number of cases while the Awami League-affiliated organisations like its student wing Bangladesh Chhatra League “reportedly carried out violence and intimidation around the country with impunity”.
The report says human rights groups and media reported that disappearances and kidnappings continued, some “committed by security services”.
“The government made limited efforts to prevent or investigate such acts,” Sullivan said and added, “Following alleged disappearances, security forces released some individuals without charge, arrested some, some were found dead, and others were never found.”
The report says the sons of three former opposition politicians convicted of war crimes by Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal disappeared in August 2016.
One of them returned after seven months but two others remain remained missing at year’s end, according to the report.
It says the government repeatedly denied the incidents of enforced disappearance and claimed the victims were hiding of their own accord.
Sullivan also said violent attacks against religious minority communities continued, “apparently motivated by transnational violent extremism as well as economic and political reasons”.
He mentioned the Nov 11 attack on Hindu homes in Rangpur by local Muslims in response to a rumoured Facebook post demeaning Islam.
He also mentioned the 2016 police attack on ethnic minority group Santal in Gaibandha, for which the High Court in February 2017 ordered the government to relieve a police officer of his duties for failure to cooperate with a judicial inquiry into the attack.