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Rights Group Alleges Bangladesh Forces Killed 150 Protesters

Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) personnel stand guard in front of the high court in Dhaka after a verdict was delivered in which Bangladesh's main Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami was banned from contesting next year's elections, August 1, 2013.
A human rights group said Bangladeshi security forces have killed at least 150 protesters and injured at least 2,000 since February when demonstrators took to the streets in response to war crimes trials involving top Islamists.

Human Rights Watch said in a report released Thursday that authorities have made no meaningful efforts to hold members of the security forces accountable.

HRW said Bangladesh should appoint an independent commission to investigate the death of dozens of protesters, including children and prosecute anyone responsible for unlawful killings. The group said Bangladesh should also allow U.N. special rapporteurs into the country to conduct independent assessments.

The government in Dhaka has not responded to the report.

A Bangladeshi war crimes court has convicted several Islamists this year in connection with atrocities committed during the country’s war of independence.

Brad Adams, HRW's Asia director, said with more war crime decisions coming, there will be more protests. Adams said "That makes it all the more critical for the government to take immediate steps to train its forces in crowd control and hold them accountable."

The report said there is "shrinking space" for media and civil society to independently report on the protests. HRW said two television stations that support opposition political parties have been closed down since May, after reporting live from the protests.

HRW said Bangladesh has also shut down opposition newspaper Amar Desh and jailed its editor, and other journalists, as well as four bloggers.

The HRW report is based on 95 interviews with victims and their family members, witnesses, human rights defenders, journalists and lawyers.

A 12-year-old boy told HRW he was shot at close range with "six small rubber pellets " to his face. The boy said he pretended to be dead and was "dumped with some other bodies."