Bangladesh security forces kill protesters: rights body

New York, August 1 (IANS) Bangladeshi security forces have frequently used excessive force following street protests, killing at least 150 protesters and injuring 2,000 more since February, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

While large numbers of protesters have been arrested, the Bangladeshi authorities have made no meaningful efforts to hold members of the security forces accountable, it said in a 48-page report.

The report is based on 95 interviews with victims and their family members, witnesses, human rights defenders, journalists and lawyers.

The report documents case after case in which police, the paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) opened fire into crowds or beat protesters in a brutal and unlawful manner.

In some cases, security forces carried out extrajudicial executions.

Human Rights Watch also documented the killing of at least a dozen members of the security forces and police officers over the course of the protests as well as three members of the ruling Awami League party.

"With national elections and more war crimes verdicts ahead, street protests are likely to be frequent and the risk of further violence is high," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

"Unless the government takes firm action to rein in the security forces, there is going to be a lot more blood on the streets before the year is over."

Large protests began in February in Bangladesh in response to decisions by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), a court set up to put on trial those responsible for war crimes and other abuses during Bangladesh's liberation war in 1971.

The Bangladeshi government needs to ensure that the security forces immediately stop using excessive force against protesters, Human Rights Watch said.

The government should appoint an independent commission to investigate the deaths of dozens of protesters, including children, and prosecute anyone responsible for unlawful killings.

Bangladesh should also allow UN special rapporteurs into the country to conduct independent assessments.


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