The Human Rights Watch has called on Bangladesh to stop arbitrary arrests and detentions of opposition BNP activists.
It also accused the government of “violating the rights to free expression and peaceful assembly” by preventing opposition supporters from demonstrating.
Media reports indicate that over a thousand BNP activists have been detained ahead of a court verdict on former prime minister Khaleda Zia, her son and four others.
Dhaka-based group Ain O Salish Kendra said a “total of 1,786 persons have been arrested in the last eight days.”
A conviction in the case filed over alleged embezzlement of Tk2.1 crore received in charity for an orphanage could prevent the BNP chairperson from running in the next national election.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Khaleda denounced charges saying they were to “harass me and my family,” but called on her supporters to be peaceful.
Security has been ratcheted up across Bangladesh anticipating violent protests by BNP supporters in case of a conviction. Police have banned all public gatherings in Dhaka.
Bangladesh has seen violent confrontations between political activists and security forces in the past resulting in many deaths. The law enforcement agencies have often been accused of using excessive and indiscriminate force to contain political protests.
The HRW, in a statement on Thursday, said Bangladesh should publicly order the security forces to abide by international standards on policing demonstrations.
Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW, said it was crucial for security forces to act with restraint at all times.
“The Bangladesh government’s claims to be open and democratic ring hollow as it cracks down on political dissent,” he said.
“The government has a responsibility to prevent and minimize violence, but it needs to do so in a way that respects basic rights, not flouts them,” Adams added.