The 2019 country reports for human rights describes the December 2018 parliamentary election of Bangladesh as ‘improbably lopsided’
The security forces of Bangladesh reportedly enjoyed widespread impunity last year for their abuses against people, including unlawful killings, forced disappearance, torture and unlawful detention, according to the 2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, released by the Department of State of the United States on Wednesday.
The report, released by Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo in Washington, also accused the government of taking few measures to bring the abusers to justice.
“There were reports of widespread impunity for security force abuses. The government took few measures to investigate and prosecute cases of abuse and killing by security forces,” the report said.
Significant human rights issues in 2019 included unlawful or arbitrary killings, forced disappearance, torture, arbitrary or unlawful detentions by the government or on its behalf, harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy, arbitrary arrests of journalists and human rights activists, censorship, site blocking and criminal libel, said the report.
There have also been substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, such as overly restrictive NGO laws and restrictions on the activities of NGOs, significant restrictions on freedom of movement, restrictions on political participation where elections were not found to be genuine, free, or fair, significant acts of corruption, criminal violence against women and girls, trafficking in persons, crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting indigenous people, crimes involving violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons and criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct, restrictions on independent trade unions and workers’ rights, and the use of the worst forms of child labour, the report further added.
The constitution of Bangladesh provides for a parliamentary form of the government in which most power resides in the Prime Minister’s Office, the report said.
“Sheikh Hasina and her Awami League party won a third consecutive five-year term, keeping her in office as prime minister, in an improbably lopsided December 2018 parliamentary election that was not considered free and fair and was marred by reported irregularities, including ballot-box stuffing and intimidation of opposition polling agents and voters,” it said.
“During the campaign, there were credible reports of harassment, intimidation, arbitrary arrests and violence that made it difficult for many opposition candidates and their supporters to meet, hold rallies, and campaign freely,” said the report.
International election monitors were not issued accreditation, and visas within the time frame necessary to conduct a credible international monitoring mission, and only seven of the 22 Election Working Group non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were approved to conduct domestic election observation, it said.
The report went on to say: “The security forces encompassing the national police, border guards, and counterterrorism units such as the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) maintain internal and border security.
“The military, primarily the army, is responsible for national defence but also has some domestic security responsibilities. The security forces report to the Ministry of Home Affairs and the military reports to the Ministry of Defense,” it said. “Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.”