Eleven international human rights organisations in a joint statement on Thursday called on the Bangladeshi authorities to conduct prompt, thorough, impartial, and independent investigations into the deaths of at least 14 people across the country between March 26 and 28 during the protest against the visit of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi to Bangladesh.
The 11 organisations also urged Bangladesh authorities to respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
The organizations are Asian Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, which better known as FORUM ASIA, Asian Network for Free Elections, Capital Punishment Justice Project, CIVICUS, Eleos Justice at Monash University, International Federation for Human Rights, which better known as FIDH, Robert F Kennedy Human Rights, the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances and World Organisation Against Torture.
‘Authorities must immediately and unconditionally release all those who have been detained solely for protesting peacefully, and drop all charges against them,’ the joint statement read.
They also called on the United Nations and the international community to urge the Bangladeshi authorities to end the practice of torturing and forced disappearance of people participating in protests, and immediately disclose the fate and whereabouts of those who remain in state custody.
It also urged to stop mass detention of protesters and immediately release those detained unless they can be charged with a criminal offense.
‘Ensure unfettered access to information and lift all restrictions imposed on social media platforms,’ it said, adding, ‘Refrain from shutting down the internet as a means to obstruct peaceful protests.’
Between March 20 and 26, police and members of the ruling party Awami League attacked a string of protests across the country organized by different political and civil society groups, beat up many and injured hundreds of largely peaceful protesters, according to local media reports.
The rights organisations consulted a video footage of the event on March 26 at the national mosque in Dhaka, which, they claimed, suggests that a large group of people, who have been reported by local media as members of ruling party Awami League and its student wing the Bangladesh Chhatra League, gathered around the mosque before the start of the Friday prayers.
As soon as the prayers ended, the members of the AL and the BCL launched a violent attack on the worshippers trying to start the protest. The protesters were confined to the mosque premises where, according to the video footage seen by the organisations, the assailants used sticks and firearms to launch the unprovoked attack.
Soon after, the police fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition to disperse the protesters. At least 60 protesters were injured while many sustained gunshot wounds.
The attack on the demonstrators in Dhaka led to an eruption of protests across the country on 27 and 28 March.
Supporters of the Awami League were present in many of these demonstrations, confronting largely peaceful protesters and attacking them, the statement claimed. It also said that the authorities deployed the Bangladesh Border Guard in several places across the country to quell the protests, which led to the death of at least 14 protesters in Chattogram and Brahmanbaria districts.
Scores of other protesters were injured, many with gunshot wounds, and dozens were detained, it said.
On March 23, 24 and 25, more than 100 people were injured in Dhaka, Sylhet and Rajshahi after police fired rubber bullets and tear gas or ruling party student group carried out attack peaceful demonstration protesting the visit of Indian prime minister.
They also detailed the cases of enforced disappearances of a number of student activists in the joint statement.