Bangladesh arrests thousands in ‘violent’ crackdown: HRW

Tuesday, Nov 28, 2023

DHAKA: Bangladesh has launched a sweeping and violent crackdown on opposition parties to “eliminate competition” ahead of general elections, including arresting almost 10,000 activists, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.

As well as the thousands arrested -- many from the key Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) -- a staggering number also face charges. According to the BNP, about half of its five million members “face politically motivated prosecution”, HRW said.

“The arrests, they are not leaving anyone behind, from senior level to the ground level,” one activist told HRW. Prisons are now at more than double their capacity, the rights group said. The South Asian nation of around 170 million people holds a general election on January 7, with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina eyeing her fourth consecutive term in power.

“Bangladesh authorities are carrying out mass arrests of political opposition in a clear attempt to quash the opposition and eliminate competition ahead of the general elections”, HRW said. New York-based HRW, who called it a “violent autocratic crackdown”, said at least 16 people have been killed since protests escalated in October, including two police officers.

More than 5,500 people have been injured. There was no immediate response by the government to the HRW report, but authorities say that those arrested should face justice for a range of violent crimes.