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Türk urges Bangladesh to change course, create conditions for truly inclusive democracy

08 January 2024

A Views Of National Parliament Building In Dhaka, Bangladesh, On January 6, 2024  © Mamunur Rashid/NurPhoto via AFP

GENEVA (8 January 2024) – UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk today called on Bangladesh’s newly elected government to take steps to renew the country’s commitment to democracy and human rights, voicing distress that the environment for Sunday’s poll was marred by violence and repression of opposition candidates and supporters.

“In the months leading up to the vote, thousands of opposition supporters have been detained arbitrarily or subjected to intimidation. Such tactics are not conducive to a truly genuine process,” said Türk.

“I implore the Government to take the necessary steps to ensure that the human rights of all Bangladeshis are fully taken into account, and to strengthen the underpinnings of a truly inclusive democracy in the country.”

Mass arrests, threats, enforced disappearances, blackmailing and surveillance were all methods reportedly used by law enforcement officials prior to the ballot, which was boycotted by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Acts of political violence, including arson attacks allegedly committed by opposition groups, have also been reported.

Around 25,000 opposition supporters have been arrested, including key party leaders, since 28 October. At least 10 opposition supporters reportedly died – or were killed – in custody in the last two months, raising serious concerns about possible torture or harsh conditions of detention, the UN Human Rights Chief said.

Many human rights defenders have been forced to go into hiding, and some have fled the country, while dozens of suspected enforced disappearance cases have been reported, mostly in November.

“These incidents must be independently investigated, and those responsible must be brought to justice in fair and transparent trials,” Türk said. “Violations and irregularities during the campaign and on election day itself should also be thoroughly and effectively investigated.”

“Democracy was hard won in Bangladesh and must not become cosmetic,” said the High Commissioner. “Bangladesh has been a role model of development, and I fervently hope this will translate into the political and institutional spheres too. The future of all Bangladeshis is at stake.”


For more information and media requests, please contact:

In Geneva
Ravina Shamdasani : + 41 22 917 9169 / [email protected] or
Jeremy Laurence + + 41 22 917 9383 / [email protected]

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