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Bangladesh May 6th: Human Rights Watch Calls for Inquiry into Deaths, But Says ‘Genocide’ Claims Unfounded.

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Al Jazeera reports,

Al Jazeera has obtained video footage suggesting that the Bangladesh government has been providing inaccurate death tolls from recent violence.

According to official figures, 11 people had died during fighting between police and protesters from Hifazat-e-Islam, an Islamic group, on May 6, a day protesters refer to as the “Siege of Dhaka”.

Human Rights Watch, a US-based rights group, said that the exact number of deaths resulting from the protests are “unclear”.

“Independent news sources put the figure at approximately 50 dead, with others succumbing to injuries later,” HRW said in a statement on Saturday.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister Dipu Moni downplayed reports of inaccuracy in government figures.

Human Rights Watch says,

 The Bangladeshi authorities should immediately set up an independent commission to investigate the large numbers of deaths and injuries during the Hefazat-e-Islaam-led protests in Dhaka and elsewhere on May 5-6, 2013, Human Rights Watch said today.

The commission should also investigate violence that killed dozens in February, March, and April after protests and counter-protests broke out after the announcement of verdicts by the country’s International Crimes Tribunal (ICT).

The exact number of deaths during the May 5-6 protest remains unclear, with figures ranging from the official government figure of 11 deaths to Hefazat’s estimate of thousands. Independent news sources put the figure at approximately 50 dead, with others succumbing to injuries later. The dead include several security personnel.

“Bangladesh will see a plethora of demonstrations this year in response to additional verdicts from the ICT and in the run-up to national elections,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Without an independent investigation, accountability, and improved policing methods, we could see serial bloodbaths.”

Human Rights Watch said that political tensions are likely to increase as more war crimes verdicts are handed down at the ICT and as elections scheduled for late 2013 or early 2014 approach. Opposition parties, including Hefazat, have already announced several protests scheduled over the next week. A flashpoint could be the reaction to the May 9 death penalty handed down by the ICT against Mohamed Kamaruzzaman, a leading official of the Jamaat-e-Islami party. Past war crimes verdicts have been a catalyst for protests and violence throughout Bangladesh.

Human Rights Watch called on opposition parties such as the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Jammat-e-Islami Party, as well as independent organizations such as Hefazat, to condemn and take steps to deter their supporters from carrying out unlawful attacks, including on law enforcement officers or members of the public with different political views.

Human Rights Watch called on the government to publicly order the security forces to follow the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, which state that security forces shall “apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms,” and that “whenever the lawful use of force and firearms is unavoidable, law enforcement officials shall: (a) Exercise restraint in such use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence and the legitimate objective to be achieved; (b) Minimize damage and injury, and respect and preserve human life.”

Section 22 of the Basic Principles states that: “Governments and law enforcement agencies shall establish effective reporting and review procedures for all incidents…Governments and law enforcement agencies shall ensure that an effective review process is available and that independent administrative or prosecutorial authorities are in a position to exercise jurisdiction in appropriate circumstances. In cases of death and serious injury or other grave consequences, a detailed report shall be sent promptly to the competent authorities responsible for administrative review and judicial control.” Section 23 states that, “Persons affected by the use of force and firearms or their legal representatives shall have access to an independent process, including a judicial process. In the event of the death of such persons, this provision shall apply to their dependants accordingly.”

“The Bangladeshi government has a responsibility to victims, whether protesters, bystanders or police, to ensure that an effective investigation is carried out into each death,” Adams said.

Hefazat, the conservative Muslim group that draws support from thousands of religious seminaries, led a “siege of Dhaka” on May 5, with demonstrations taking place in other parts of the country. Human Rights Watch said that claims of “genocide” by Hefazat and other opposition parties are unfounded and have only served to heighten tensions.

“The toxic swirl of rumor and rhetoric surrounding the protest of May 5-6 will only get worse unless the government acts quickly in a transparent manner,” Adams said. “Given the lack of trust between various parties, it is imperative that these answers come from an independent and impartial body.”

Human Rights Watch expressed concern that Hefazat recruited boys from madrassahs to participate in the “siege.” Many of the boys were unaware of the risks of marching into Dhaka. Independent journalists told Human Rights Watch that after the protests were broken up by security forces, they encountered groups of boys who had never been to Dhaka before and were terrified by the experience of seeing dead bodies and large-scale violence. The boys asked journalists for directions to bus stations so they could go home. They were no longer accompanied by adults.

Human Rights Watch called on the government to ensure media and civil society are able to independently report on the protests. Two television stations that support opposition political parties, Islamic TV and Diganta TV, were taken off the air by the government on the night of May 5-6 and remain off the air at the time of writing. The stations were reporting live from the site of the protests. In April, the government shut down opposition newspaper Amar Desh and jailed its editor, Mahmdur Rahman, and other journalists. The government has also jailed some bloggers who had expressed atheist sentiments in their writings.

“The government’s claims to be the most open and democratic in Bangladesh’s history are undermined by censorship of critical voices,” Adams said. “The government can take reasonab

This is what George Galloway said when calling for the overthrow of the Bangladeshi government last weekend ,

Galloway denounced the massacre of Islamic scholars earlier in the week.

Even on the most conservative estimates of the number of people murdered, it exceeds the loss of life in 9/11,” said Galloway.

In total almost 3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 15, 2013 at 11:20 am

2 Responses

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  1. Bangladeshis call for solidarity rally
    Tuesday 14 May 2013 by John Haylett Printable Email
    British-based Bangladeshis and their supporters have called a solidarity rally in London tonight tonight with the Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) whose offices in Dhaka were attacked my religious fanatics.

    The May 5 attack was carried out by the Hefajote Islam grand alliance of religious extremists and Jamat-e-Islam armed militants.

    The militants detonated a large bomb that destroyed the gates to the CPB headquarters. They then entered its basement car park, wrecking five cars and setting the building on fire.

    Party members from all over the city converged on the offices and assisted firefighters to douse the flames.

    CPB general secretary Mujahidul Islam Selim and other workers escaped to the roof from where they were rescued.

    He told a press conference that the party had been singled out as “a sincere and consistent fighter for secularism.”

    It had also given strong backing to a trial of leading Jamat-e-Islam figures who collaborated with the Pakistani occupation army in 1971 during the war for national liberation and were involved in acts of genocide and mass rape.

    “Jamat is trying its best to foil the trial. That is why they have adapted the tactics of terrorism and false propaganda using the name of religion,” said the CPB leader.

    The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) has expressed solidarity with its Bangladeshi neighbours, commending all forces “resisting the fundamentalist forces and their attack on the secular, democratic polity of Bangladesh.”

    The CPI-M demanded firm action from the Dhaka government against the fundamentalists responsible for such attacks and urged that the “perpetrators of crimes should be immediately made to stand trial.”

    Tonight’s meeting at the Montefiori Centre in Hanbury Street, London E1 5HZ at 6pm, is supported by the Co-ordinating Committee of Communist Parties in Britain.

    Committee convener Navid Shomali called on all progressive people to attend the meeting “to denounce the destructive activities by the fundamentalists and to show our solidarity to the Bangladesh Communist Party.”


    Harry P

    May 15, 2013 at 12:18 pm

  2. I suppose I’m a bit old-fashioned, but I’ve always defined genocide as a deliberate, premeditated attempt to exterminate a entire or at least a hefty chunk of an ethnic group of people. Hence the Nazis’ extermination of six million Jews in the last war was certainly an act of genocide, as were their extermination of large numbers of Roma and millions of Slavs. The mass killing of Armenians by the Turkish authorities during the First World War was another act of genocide.

    But these days, practically any mass killing of people can be and often is presented as an act of genocide. This, however unpleasant these deaths are, nonetheless tends to trivialise acts of real mass, premeditated killing, such as the Nazis’ Holocaust of Jews, Roma and Slavs.

    However, the UN declaration on genocide really does lend to this latter definition. It reads, in part:

    ‘Article 2: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
    (a) Killing members of the group;
    (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
    (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
    (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
    (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

    ‘Article 3 The following acts shall be punishable:
    (a) Genocide;
    (b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
    (c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
    (d) Attempt to commit genocide;
    (e) Complicity in genocide.’

    The words ‘to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group’ can actually mean a mere handful — any killing on a racial or religious basis can be logically construed as genocide. And the act need not be fatal, as article 2, clause b, demonstrates.

    So technically these Bengali Islamists could use the term ‘genocide’ to describe what happened to them.

    Dr Paul

    May 17, 2013 at 3:06 pm

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