The report on human rights in Bangladesh in 2018 by watchdog Odhikar has yet again revealed a glimpse of the state of human rights in Bangladesh. The report, published on May 1, provides a series of statistics on human rights violations between January and April this year.
Comprised of extrajudicial killings by domestic law enforcement agencies, deaths at the hands of the neighbouring Indian Border Security Force, attacks on journalists, political violence, violence against women, condition of workers, weaponizing of the ICT Act, and enforced disappearances, the report provides solid numbers.
The terminal numbers by themselves reveal much, but when compared to the figures of the annual report for 2017, the exposure is magnified and an unsettling pattern begins to emerge.
Between January and April 2018, extrajudicial killings numbered 73, nearly half the total 154 for the year 2017. It has gone up by 15.8% for the first four months compared to last year.
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The figures for human rights violations from January to April 2018 by Odhikar[/caption]
While enforced disappearances have been significantly lower in 2018 than the previous year, the number of deaths during imprisonment has gone up. In the first four months of 2017, at least 30 people had been victims of enforced disappearances. But in 2018, the same amount of time has seen 14 people picked up by forces claiming to be with law enforcement agencies.
A positive finding by the report might be the drop in violations against Bangladeshis by the BSF. Total violations, including murder, abduction and other attacks, have gone down by 46.6%. The discussions between the two countries and the heads of BGB and BSF seem to be bearing fruit as the number of civilian casualties decline.
However, attacks on journalists paint a sordid picture. Though no journalists have been killed, unlike 2017, the number of journalists injured in the line of duty has tripled this year. Threats to dissuade journalists from pursuing unsavoury stories have remained more or less constant.
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As 2018 is an election year, the political climate is understandably more volatile than other years. Political deaths and injuries have seen a rise, and may continue the trend as the polls get closer. The aftermath of the 2014 polls saw some of the bloodiest political protests since the parliamentary government system was introduced in Bangladesh.
Violence against women has been notable, with 251 incidents of rape reported this year compared to 210 last year over the same period of time. Meanwhile, dowry-related violence and acid violence have made a nominal decline.
Since RMG workers have been protesting peacefully to relatively low resistance from the authorities, casualties have been lower. No mass protests, unlike last year, have taken place on any scale that could jeopardize their livelihood. By May 1, 2017, RMG factory owners had fired 2,810 workers for protesting. In addition, 111 workers were injured compared to 60 in the first terminal of 2018.
As the ICT Act is slowly being phased out and repackaged as the Digital Security Act, its usage has also declined. There have only been three arrests this year under that law, compared to 10 by May 2017.
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The Odhikar report concluded by bemoaning the repression it was suffering at the government’s hands and recommended several proposals to impartially address numerous incidents of human rights violations.