Human rights organisation Amnesty International has warned against a growing crack down by authorities on peaceful protests and freedom of expression in Bangladesh.
In its annual report, the international rights body claimed that criticism of the government in Bangladesh, or the family of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, triggered criminal cases which was reflective of an increasingly hostile environment for freedom of expression.
“The government proposed a new Digital Security Act, which places even greater restrictions on freedom of expression than the notoriously abusive Section 57 of the Information and Communications Technology Act,” the report claims.
“The right to freedom of peaceful assembly continued to be severely restricted, as members of the political opposition were stopped from organising rallies and meetings. The activities of NGOs continued to be restricted through the Foreign Donation (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act. Enforced disappearances persisted, mainly targeting the political opposition and their supporters,” it adds.
Highlighting a case in November where more than 30 homes belonging to Hindu families were reportedly ransacked, looted and torched in Thakurpara village in Rangpur, Amnesty flagged Bangladesh alongside other countries in South Asia where minorities are unsafe.
“South Asia remains one of the most dangerous regions to be a member of a religious minority. Muslims in India and Sri Lanka, Shi’as in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Hindus in Bangladesh have all come under attack over the past year. In each case, the governments have either failed to protect them, been indifferent to their fate, or even encouraged a climate of hostility,” said Biraj Patnaik, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director.
The exodus of nearly 650,000 Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh was branded the fastest-growing refugee crisis in recent times.
“At the end of the year, their prospects for the future remained very unclear, and the enduring failure of world leaders to provide real solutions for refugees left little reason for optimism,” Amnesty warns.
The annual Amnesty International assessment, titled ‘The State of the World’s Human Rights,' was published on Thursday. It covers 159 countries.