The United Nations on Friday called for an independent investigation into the incidents of violence and alleged human rights violations reported during the recently-held general elections in Bangladesh. An alliance led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League won more than 90% of parliamentary seats in the elections.
Polling in the 11th general elections was held on December 30 for 299 of the 300 parliamentary seats. Dozens of candidates had pulled out on the polling day, claiming rigging by the ruling party. Opposition parties in Bangladesh have rejected the poll results, alleging widespread rigging and voter intimidation. At least 19 people were killed in the unrest.
On Thursday, new parliament members, including Hasina, were sworn in, but seven opposition members boycotted the ceremony, calling for a new election.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called on the authorities to take urgent measures to prevent further reprisals. “There are worrying indications that reprisals have continued to take place, notably against the political opposition, including physical attacks and ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests, harassment, disappearances and filing of criminal cases,” said Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The United Nations noted that there have been reports of media professionals being intimidated and injured, and other constraints have hindered free and public reporting on the elections. At least two Bangladeshi journalists face cases for publishing “false and fabricated information on the voting process”. The journalists had reported on the alleged irregularities in the number of votes cast in Khulna-1 constituency.
“We urge the authorities to carry out prompt, independent, impartial and effective investigations into all alleged acts of violence and human rights violations related to the elections with a view to holding accountable those responsible, regardless of their political affiliations,” Shamdasani said.
The United Nations also urged the national Human Rights Commission to play an independent and proactive role in the matter. “We call on the authorities to take urgent measures to prevent further reprisals, and to ensure that law enforcement authorities exercise their powers strictly in accordance with the rule of law and principles of legality and proportionality,” Shamdasani added.