Dhaka, Sep 24 (EFE).– Bangladesh said on Sunday that United States visa restrictions ahead of the parliamentary elections in January next year would not harm the relationship between the two countries.
The US Department of State said on Friday that it was taking steps to impose visa restrictions on Bangladeshi individuals responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process in Bangladesh.
The individuals include members of law enforcement, the ruling party, and the political opposition, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.
The persons and members of their immediate family may be found ineligible for entry into the US.
On May 24, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the new visa policy to support Bangladesh’s goal of holding free, fair, and peaceful national elections.
“They have declared a visa policy. We were not informed of it through any letter. We don’t know yet who they have restricted from getting visas,” Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman told reporters in Dhaka.
“It is their decision to determine whom they permit to enter their country and whom they choose to restrict.”
Speaking to reporters in New York, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen ruled out any tension with the US over visa restrictions.
“We have no tension with the US,” local news agency United News of Bangladesh quoted Momen as saying.
The US announcement of a visa curb for Bangladeshi nationals came after the European Union said it would not send an election observation mission to Bangladesh this year.
The EU sent an independent Election Exploratory Mission (ExM) to Bangladesh from July 6 to 22 to collect factual information.
The mission was to assess whether deploying an EU Election Observation Mission (EOM) to the upcoming parliamentary elections would be feasible and advisable in line with international standards.
The mission met with election stakeholders, including foreign ministry officials, election management bodies, the judiciary, representatives of political parties, the media, and civil society.
The EU concluded that election observation mission “would not serve for its purpose this time,” EU spokesperson Nabila Massrali told EFE.
Rights groups criticized Bangladesh for rapid declines in civic freedoms amid a crackdown on the opposition and the government’s critics ahead of the poll.
Last week, Johannesburg-based civil rights group Civicus accused the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of doing whatever it takes to crush dissent through legal and other means.
The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) said that until Sep. 20, the government had prosecuted 49,28,492 of its leaders and activists in 141,689 cases since 2009.
During this period, 1,539 party activists were killed, including 799 by members of law-enforcing agencies, a BNP spokesperson told EFE.
The ruling Awami League, led by Hasina, and the BNP have ruled Bangladesh since 1991, except for a brief quasi-military rule in 2007–08. EFE