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Friday, January 30, 2015, Magh 17, 1421, Robi-Us-Sani 8, 1436 Hijr

Bangladesh's political rights status declines
Saleem Samad
Published : Friday, 30 January, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM,  View Count : 190
Bangladesh's political rights status declined due to national elections that were marred by an opposition boycott, as well as widespread violence and intimidation by a range of political parties.
According to 'Freedom in the World 2015' report released on Thursday Bangladesh is partially free on political rights and civil liberties, and the ratings determined for year 2014 is 4 (1 represents the most free and 7 the least free rating) in both parameters.
Despite improvement in status of democratisation progress, governance reforms and elective democracy, Bangladesh has declined by one score (from 3 to 4) in political rights. The status for civil liberties remained static since the last survey.
Meanwhile, the World Report 2015 published by a New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) described the situation of Bangladesh was marred by attacks, abductions, killings and opines that lack of justice has fuelled serious human rights violations.
The 656-page world report blames the government for failing to prosecute security forces from serious abuses including killings, disappearances, and arbitrary arrests.
The world report reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries.
HRW had repeatedly blamed the government forces for committing serious abuses both leading up to and after the January 2014 general election, while members of opposition parties engaged in violent and indiscriminate attacks to impose economic blockades and to enforce a boycott of the January polls.
The HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth urged governments to recognise that human rights offer an effective moral guide in turbulent times, and that violating rights can spark or aggravate serious security challenges.
Despite documented evidence, the government took no steps to ensure accountability for any election-related violence or for other violations by its security forces.
The sole exception was the arrest in May of several members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) who were implicated in a high-profile contract-killing of a local.
"The arrest of a few members of RAB is a positive move, but the government must ensure that justice is not dealt out selectively, depending on family or political connections," said Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch.
"The government essentially gives security forces free rein so long as it suits the government's interests, and turns a blind eye to excesses. This has long been a trend in Bangladesh, regardless of which party is in power," he remarked.
The US rights groups also pointed to chronic rights issues that remain a concern in Bangladesh. Conditions for the Rohingya refugee population from Myanmar remained critical with the government making dire threats about forcibly returning them.
After years of increasing restrictions on civil society, the government introduced a draft bill that would formalise restrictive practices and policies, and make access to foreign funding particularly onerous, the 2015 report stated.
The government also introduced a new media policy that imposed unacceptable limits on free expression and speech, alleged HRW annual report.
Although the government had amended its labor laws after the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory, workers continued to report intimidation and violence when attempting to form or join unions.
In a positive move in 2014, two groups of North American and European retailers completed their fire and safety inspections of more than 2,000 factories in the ready-made garment industry following an agreement after the Rana Plaza tragedy.
Even though they made their reports public and repairs have begun in some factories, inspections conducted by the government of other factories have not been made public and it remains unknown if any repairs have been undertaken.
Adams observed that though the government and the international community found the will to improve the terrible conditions of the workers in Bangladesh's garment industry, but that momentum must be maintained.

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