Bangladesh : Stop violence, stop death sentences!

Press release

FIDH expresses serious concerns following a month of violent protests that caused the death of at least 98 persons in Bangladesh, including women and children. It calls on authorities and all concerned parties to immediately engage into political dialogue and ask their supporters not to participate in any acts of violence nor in any heinous campaign against other groups.

The protests, which began on 5 February with street protests and an on-line smear campaign, erupted following the death sentence delivered on 28 February by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) – a national court set up to prosecute those responsible for atrocities committed during the country’s war of independence in 1971 - against Delwar Hossain Sayedee, Vice-President of the Jamaat party [1].

FIDH strongly opposes the death penalty in all circumstances. Evidence of government’s interference, combined with verdicts which are clearly politically-motivated and recent amendments of ICT rules, allowing in particular for a person to be tried or punished again for an offense for which he/she has already been acquitted, are aggravating factors which require an immediate stay on death sentences. The truth and justice-seeking process for the heinous crimes committed during the war of independence in 1971 in Bangladesh should respect the guarantees of a fair trial and victims’ rights to truth, justice and reparation, declared Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.

Since last week, many people have been killed by State security forces, which have used live ammunitions against protesters. Only a transparent investigation will bring light on those responsible for the killing of innocent people, many of whom were mere by-standers. Acts of violence were also reported on the side of protesters who killed several police officers and burnt down Hindu homes and temples. In addition, political supporters on all board have contributed to the spread of hatred messages. "We therefore call on all concerned parties to speak with one voice for the end of any kind of violence, including physical or on-line attacks, Mrs Belhassen added.

FIDH further calls on the international community to propose its technical assistance regarding the proceedings of the ICT and to play a mediation role in the on-going political crisis in the lead-up to the general elections, due to take place before the end of January 2014.

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