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In 2005,Bangladesh experienced an unprecedented period of continuous political instability. OnAugust 17, 2005, four hundred bombs exploded in all but one of the nation's sixty-four districts[1]. As a result of this instability and its national security reprecussions, Bangladesh's already questionable human rights has deteriorated.

Bangladeshi security forces have been persistenly criticised by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch due to grave abuses of human rights. These include extrajudicial summary executions, excessive use of force and the use of custodial torture.[2]. Reporters and defenders of human rights are harassed and intimidated by the authorities. Since 2003, legislative barriers to prosecution and transparency have afforded security services immunity from accountability to the general public [3]. Hindu and Ahmadi Muslim minorities human rights are in a compromised state, and corruption is still a major problem, such thatTransparency International has listed Bangladesh as the most corrupt country in the world for five co consecutive years [4].


Extrajudicial killings

After general elections in 2001 to the Jatiyo Sangshad(Bangladesh's Parliament), the right-wing Bangladesh Nationalist Party gained a majority, largely on the basis of their law and order and national security policies within Bangladesh. In 2003, the government established the Rapid Action Battalion, an elite 'anti-crime' unit composed of armed personnel from several of the existing security branches. Since the RAB was set up, it has been constantly alleged that extrajudicial killings and instances of custodial torture have surged.

Between January and October 2005, an estimated 300 'criminal' civilians died due to 'encounter' killings[5], at the hands of law enforcement agencies and the RAB. Human rights groups have recorded many of these killings, and have demanded that each death be investigated, but the government have refused to meet these requests. The government has defended RAB for having cut serious crime by fifty percent, and have, as of 2006, dismissed international condemnation of RAB——against whom the European Parliament have issued a strong resolution[6]by saying that 'encounter killings' happen all over the world.

The government's tolerance towards human rights abuses is not a new phenomenon. Operation Clean Heart was an anti-crime operation that ran nationwide from October 2002 to January 2003. It led to the death of approximately sixty people, the maiming of around three thousand individuals, and the arrest of more than forty-five thousand[7]. On the day that Operation Clean Heart officially ended, an ordinance was ratified that prohibited law-suits or prosecutions for human rights violations during that period, giving the armed forces and police impunity from being prosecuted for their actions[8].


RAB and other security agencies have been accused of using torture during custody and interrogation. One allegation of such came from a young man who was arrested in Dhaka for protesting against the assault of an old man by plainclothes RAB agents. He was later severely tortured[9]. On July 27, 2005, two brothers from Rajshahi, Azizur Rahman Shohel and Atiquer Rahman Jewel, were arrested on fabricated charges, beaten with batons and subjected to electric shocks [10]. It is alleged that this brutality stemmed from the brothers' family being incapable of paying a sufficient bribe. The brothers were tortured to such an extent that they were hospitalised at the Rajshahi Medical School Hospital under police custody[11].

Persecution of minority communities

Although Bangladesh is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a covenant designed to ensure freedom of religion and of expression, it has tolerated violent assaults on religious minority communities by extremists.

In January 2004, the government succumbed to an ultimatum from their coalition partner, the Islami Okiya Jote, and the extremist vigilante Khatme Nabuwat Movement to declare that Ahmadi Muslims are "not" Muslims[12]. Not wishing to lose its majority, Ahmadiyya publications were declared illegal by the government. A constitutional court suspended the ban, but Islamist groups are threatening legal challenge to this.

Attacks on the homes and places of worship of Ahmadiyya are still prevalent, but the government has chosen neither to prosecute those responsible, nor discipline police officers who failed to protect victims. Other religious minorities have come under attack, with abductions, desecration of religious sites, and forced conversions[13] persistently reported. There have been many reports of Hindus having been evicted from their properties, and of Hindu girls being raped[14], but the police have refused to investigate, to this point. Due to this climate of religious persecution, several hundred thousand Buddhists, Hindus and Christians have left the country[15].

Freedom of religion

Although initially Bangladesh opted for a secular nationalist ideology as embodied in its Constitution, the principle of secularism was subsequently replaced by a commitment to the Islamic way of life through a series of constitutional amendments and government proclamations between 1977 and 1988. The Constitution establishes Islam as the state religion but provides for the right to practice--subject to law, public order, and morality--the religion of one's choice. [16] The Government generally respects this provision in practice.

Intimidation of human rights defenders, journalists, and the opposition

Voices of opposition are ever more at risk in Bangladesh, as groups who document or speak out against the actions of the government have found themselves increasingly threatened and under attack. On January 27, 2005, Shah Abu Mohamed Shamsul Kibria, former Finance Minister and senior member of the secular Bangladesh Awami League, was assassinated[17]. This followed a 2004 attempt to assassinate the leader of the Awami League, Sheikh Hasina, in a bomb and grenade blast. She survived, but twenty-three members of her party were killed[18]. Other AL members, junior and senior alike, have reported harassment and intimidation.

Human rights organisations also operate under the threat of assault from the authorities and government supporters[19]. On August 8, 2005, a group of BNP members attacked two human rights activists, who had been investigating torture against an Ahmadi[12]. Journalists face the same fate: for three years, the organisation Reporters sans Frontières, has named Bangladesh the country with the largest number of journalists physically attacked or threatened with death. The government has no intention of protecting journalists, whereas Islamist groups continue to intensify their intimidation of the independent news media[20].

AIDS and homosexuality in Bangladesh

Reported cases of HIV/AIDS are growing at an alarming extent, with over a million AIDS sufferers in Bangladesh[21]. Whilst this rise of AIDS is not confined to Bangladesh in particular, the government is doing nothing to prevent the spread of AIDS and is not prosecuting police who rape homosexual men.

Politically vulnerable groups at risk of HIV infection, such as sex workers and men who have sex with men, have not been educated about the risk of AIDS, nor protected by the authorities, and they have found themselves regularly assaulted, abducted, raped, gang raped, and subjected to extortion by the police and by powerful criminals [22]. Organisations have been established to stem the development of AIDS through education, but such projects have been curbed by police brutality towards members who work on them[23].

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ [ Bangladesh 'militant' sentenced
  2. ^ Amnesty International
  3. ^ Ibid
  4. ^
  5. ^ Bangladesh to probe nearly 300 extrajudicial killings by law enforcers : South Asia News Latest News
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Bangladesh: Operation Clean Heart: Dhaka’s dirty war
  9. ^
  10. ^ Bangladesh Human Rights Networks -
  11. ^ BANGLADESH: Brutal torture of two young men by the Boalia police in Rajsahi
  12. ^ a b Essential Background: Overview of human rights issues in Bangladesh (Human Rights Watch, 31-12-2005)
  13. ^
  14. ^ Bangladesh: Attacks on members of the Hindu minority | Amnesty International
  15. ^ Attacks on Hindu Minorities in Bangladesh
  16. ^ [1] Article 2A
  17. ^ The Daily Star Web Edition Vol. 5 Num 592
  18. ^ ULFA’s Involvement in Assassination Attempt on Sheikh Hasina - Bangladesh Monitor - Paper No. 5
  19. ^ Bangladesh: Human rights defenders under attack | Amnesty International
  20. ^ Reporters sans frontières - Bangladesh - Annual report 2005
  21. ^ HIV and AIDS in Bangladesh,HIV in Bangladesh,AIDS in Bangladesh,Indicators,Estimates,Figures,HIV situation
  22. ^ AEGiS-AFP News: Bangladesh-AIDS-rights: Bangladesh could face AIDS 'epidemic' if police are not reformed: HRW - August 20, 2003
  23. ^ HRW: Ravaging the Vulnerable: Abuses Against Persons at High Risk of HIV Infection in Bangladesh

External links

Chancery Law Chronicles- First Bangladesh Online Case Law Database * [2]

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