04 August 2023
UN High Commissioner.
As Bangladesh gears up for a general election in January next year, we urge all political parties, their supporters and the security forces to ensure a peaceful, inclusive and safe environment enabling a free and fair ballot.
In recent months, recurring violence has erupted at a number of opposition rallies, where police have used rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons. Police, alongside men in plain clothing, have been seen using hammers, sticks, bats and iron rods, among other objects, to beat protesters. Many opposition supporters – as well as some police - have been injured. Senior opposition leaders have been beaten in broad daylight, and their homes raided by people claiming to be law enforcement personnel. Hundreds of opposition leaders and supporters have been arrested before and during the rallies.
Authorities must abide by their human rights obligations and allow people to exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of opinion and expression, and to act diligently to protect against attempts by third parties to suppress or limit exercise of those rights. We urge the police to ensure that force is only used when strictly necessary and, if so, in full compliance with the principles of legality, restraint and proportionality. Excessive use of force must be promptly investigated, and those responsible held to account.
We also call on the authorities to ensure all those canvassing ahead of next year’s ballot are assured a safe and peaceful environment that respects and promotes political plurality and the expression of diverse views, in full respect for fundamental rights and freedoms.