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UN: Bangladesh Mired in Election Violence and Repression

An opposition BNP activist is being arrested by policemen in Dhaka. In 2018, thousands of opposition leaders and activists were arrested in Bangladesh on allegedly trumped up cases of political violence.

The U.N. human rights office is calling on Bangladeshi authorities to clamp down on party sympathizers allegedly behind violent, deadly attacks against political opponents protesting the results of the country's recent parliamentary elections.

The U.N. agency expresses deep concern about the violent crackdown against members of Bangladesh's political opposition before, during and after the parliamentary elections on December 30. The opposition, which claims the ruling Awami League's landslide victory was rigged, has taken to the streets in protest.

The U.N. human rights office says it has credible reports of fatalities, numerous injuries and wide-scale intimidation, including the arbitrary arrests, harassment and disappearances of government opponents and minorities. It says reports indicate repressive measures are being disproportionately carried out by ruling party activists, including law enforcement officers.

A Bangladeshi man collects election posters in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Monday, Dec. 31, 2018.
A Bangladeshi man collects election posters in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Monday, Dec. 31, 2018.

The agency's spokeswoman, Ravina Shamdasani, says media professionals, human rights defenders, the political opposition and government critics are being restrained from speaking out. She tells VOA Bangladesh's institutions, including the Election Commission and National Human Rights Commission reportedly are not sufficiently impartial.

"We are stressing that it is very important for means of redress, as you suggest, legal means of redress, institutional means of redress to be made available to the people in order to express their grievances and to avoid further resort to violence," said Shamdasani.

The U.N. agency is urging the authorities to carry out a prompt, independent investigation into all alleged acts of violence and other human rights violations related to the elections. It says those responsible for abuses must be held accountable, regardless of political affiliation.

The agency warns the space for human rights defenders and other members of Bangladesh's civil society is shrinking. It says care must be taken to protect their right to freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association.