Karapatan’s Statement on the Worsening Human Rights Situation in Bangladesh

Karapatan stands in solidarity with the people of Bangladesh in their struggle against attacks on their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights by the ruling Awami League Party. 

As the human rights group Odhikar reports, the people of Bangladesh are now suffering from tremendous affront to their democracy. As their 11th Parliamentary Election in December 2018 draws near, a wave of attacks and repressive policies have been inflicted and imposed on the people of Bangladesh. 

In a bid to dominate the parliamentary elections, the ruling party has launched attacks against the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led Alliance, Left Democratic Alliance and other opposition political parties. Mass arrests and attacks on meetings of these groups were widely reported.

In August 2018, there were news on the thousands of students of various schools and colleges taking to the street to demand safe roads. But unknown to many, a lot of students and ordinary citizens were arrested and tortured by the police for attending the rally.

Bangladesh’s own version of the “war on drugs,” mirroring that of the Philippines, has netted some 248 extra judicial killings from May to September 2018 alone. But it is doubtful if Bangladesh can claim victory over its so-called war on drugs.

As with the Philippine experience under President Rodrigo Duterte, any kind of government campaign against the illegal drug trade that results to extrajudicial killings of mostly poor people will always be a dismal failure and is totally condemnable.

The similarities between the governments of Bangladesh and the Philippines do not end there. Both governments have also legislated increasingly repressive and punitive laws. 

The Philippines’ Human Security Act, in its current version, infringes on the right of citizens to due process, for redress of legitimate grievances, for privacy and against wiretapping, among others. With the Duterte regime’s proposed amendments to the said law, provisions that will legitimize torture and illegal detention, criminalize dissent and humanitarian work, and violate the freedom of free speech and expression will be passed. 

Meanwhile, Bangladesh has a Digital Security Act, which enables government to punish anyone who collects, publishes or preserves confidential information through any digital device.  If convicted, a person may suffer through 14 years in jail to life imprisonment. Another repressive law in Bangladesh is the Information and Communication Technology Act 2006 whereby anyone can be imprisoned for writing negative comments against government officials in social media.

In this scenario of both the Philippines and Bangladesh’s blatant disregard of the human rights, human rights defenders become targets of government’s repression. In the Philippines, many activists and political dissenters have been killed or arrested and jailed on trumped-up criminal charges. 

Karapatan believes that amid this bleak situation, international solidarity becomes an even more imperative task and duty. We remain steadfast in our solidarity with human rights groups, social movements and the people of Bangladesh. We will continue to support them in their struggle for just and lasting peace in their country.