November: a grisly month of human rights abuses in Bangladesh

Published in The Independent on 2 December 2011

Though not for everyone…

A report documenting human rights abuses throughout the month of November has been published by human rights organisation Odhikar.

Political violence resulted in 15 deaths and injured another 759 people.

According to Odhikar’s report, “Evidence suggests that tension and violence between the two major political parties and internal conflicts within the parties are the primary source of political violence.”

The violence occurred “despite [political parties’] rhetoric of tolerance and democracy.”

The most high profile murder was that of Lokman Hossain, the Mayor of Narshingdi municipality, who was shot dead by a gang on 1 November.

In contravention of Article 28 of the constitution, which guarantees freedom of assembly, 11 meetings and assemblies were obstructed by imposing section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

“Complaints have been received that most of these incidents have been initiated by the ruling party Awami League,” states the report.

According to Odhikar’s statistics, three Bangladeshi citizens were allegedly killed, five injured and two abducted by India’s Border Security Force (BSF).

Odhikar’s case study of one death occurred on November 18, when 23-year-old Shariful Islam was shot dead near Border Pillar 179 while ploughing his field.

Seven people lost their lives in extra-judicial killings – with two men allegedly tortured to death by police.

Eight people died in Bangladeshi jails, with authorities citing ‘illness’ as the cause of death.

Odhikar believes that shortcomings in the criminal justice system contributed to the deaths of 20 people by public lynching.

Attacks on press freedom continued in November, with 14 journalists injured, three threatened and 10 attacked.

Odhikar’s press release states, “Those involved in attacks on journalists and in attempts to suppress free media must be identified, arrested and convicted through trials.”

Forty-one women and girls were raped last month – more than half of which were under the age of 16.  One girl was killed after being raped, and four were gang raped. Of the 14 women raped, three were subsequently murdered and nine were gang raped.

Thirty-one teenage girls and women were sexually harassed, with one victim committing suicide afterwards.

Thirty-two women were subjected to dowry related violence – 18 of which were murdered, and one took her life after the attack.

Two women were victims of acid attacks in November.

Odhikar recommends that, “Public awareness regarding the rights of women, prevention of violence against women and children, and related laws must be incorporated into primary, secondary and higher secondary school books.”

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