UN rights chief urged to press Bangladesh on abuses
Dhaka, Aug 10 (EFE).- Nine international human rights bodies Wednesday urged United Nations rights chief Michele Bachelet to call for an end to abuses in Bangladesh as she prepares to visit the country next week.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights will embark on her maiden visit to Bangladesh from August 14-18 to meet with government officials and civil society organizations.
She will also visit the Rohingya refugee camps.
“If the high commissioner fails to clearly condemn these abuses and seek reform, the ruling Awami League could use her silence to legitimize its abuses and undermine activists,” the human rights organizations said in a statement.
They accused the government of human rights abuse, extrajudicial killings, torture, and enforced disappearances.
Quoting Bangladeshi rights groups, Human Rights Watch said last year that security forces forcibly disappeared nearly 600 people since Prime Minister Hasina took office in 2009.
While some victims have been released or produced in court after weeks or months of secret detention, others became victims of extrajudicial killings, passed off as deaths during gunfights. Scores are still missing.
Many victims were critics of the ruling Awami League government.
The Bangladesh government consistently denied that the security forces committed enforced disappearances.
The United States, on Dec.10, imposed sanctions on the country’s elite security force, Rapid Action Battalion, and seven of its current and former officials, including police chief Benazir Ahmed for alleged human rights abuses.
The rights groups said after the US announced the sanctions on the “notoriously abusive” Rapid Action Battalion, the Bangladesh government retaliated against victims’ relatives, rights defenders and their families, and rights organizations.
“High Commissioner Bachelet should encourage the Bangladesh government to create an independent commission of inquiry to investigate all allegations of enforced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial killings, and custodial deaths,” the nine rights groups said.
Bachelet’s visit comes at a time when civil society in Bangladesh has increasingly been under attack.
The rights groups urged Bachelet to urge the government to protect the rights of Rohingya refugees.
The nearly one million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh lack legal status, which puts them on precarious footing under domestic law and makes them vulnerable to rights violations.
According to the United Nations refugee agency, Bangladesh houses around 925,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, including 774,000 who fled since 2017, following an operation flagged by the UN for alleged ethnic cleansing and attempted genocide. EFE