Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina secured her fifth term in office after Sunday’s vote. The United Nations human rights chief on Monday condemned violence and repression during Bangladesh’s disputed election, which was boycotted by the opposition, and called on the country to strengthen democracy.
Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina secured her fifth term in power following Sunday’s vote, after the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) called a general strike and, along with dozens of others, refused to participate.
“I implore the government to take the necessary steps to ensure that the human rights of all Bangladeshis are fully taken into account, and to strengthen the underpinnings of a truly inclusive democracy,” Volker Turk said in a statement.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights pointed out that “thousands of opposition supporters have been detained arbitrarily or subjected to intimidation”.
“Such tactics are not conducive to a truly genuine process,” he warned.
Hasina has presided over breakneck economic growth in a country once beset by grinding poverty, but her government has been accused of rampant human rights abuses and a ruthless crackdown on dissent.
Turk said that mass arrests, threats, enforced disappearances, blackmailing and surveillance were all methods reportedly used by law enforcement officials in the months leading up to the vote.
He also lamented reported acts of political violence, including arson attacks allegedly committed by opposition groups.
“Around 25,000 opposition supporters have been arrested, including key party leaders, since October 28,” the statement said, adding that at least 10 of them had reportedly died or been killed in custody.
This, it cautioned, raises “serious concerns about possible torture or harsh conditions of detention”.
Many rights defenders had meanwhile been forced to go into hiding and even flee the country, while dozens of people had reportedly been victims of enforced disappearances.
“These incidents must be independently investigated, and those responsible must be brought to justice in fair and transparent trials,” Turk said.
“Violations and irregularities during the campaign and on election day itself should also be thoroughly and effectively investigated.”
The UN rights chief highlighted that “democracy was hard won in Bangladesh and must not become cosmetic”.
“The future of all Bangladeshis is at stake.”