Terrorist attack in Bangladesh: the government must respond with justice and rule of law

(Paris) FIDH strongly condemns the terrorist attack that took place in a café in Dhaka’s Gulshan District on Friday 1 July, killing 20 people. FIDH expresses its sincere solidarity with the victims, the survivors and their families and with all those who have suffered the consequences of terrorist violence across the world.

FIDH reiterates that the Bangladeshi government must ensure the safety of all of its citizens and residents of Bangladesh, and must do so in accordance with human rights and international law. The authorities must develop effective strategies to counter the rise of religious militancy, and to promote respect and non-discrimination. The government must protect the right of free peaceful expression, stop denying the presence of global terrorist networks in Bangladesh, and refrain from extreme “security measures” in violation of due process rights. In addition, the authorities must thoroughly investigate the increasing violence allegedly committed by religious extremists in the country, notably the latest attack on 1 July, with an aim to bring the perpetrators to justice through impartial and transparent judicial processes.

Sadly, no such investigations nor judicial proceedings have taken place for the numerous attacks against activists and religious minorities in the past year. Instead, under the guise of “preventing the emergence of militancy” in Bangladesh, the Bangladesh security forces executed a wave of mass arrests two weeks ago that resulted in the detention of over 15,500 people in just seven days. However, only a small fraction of those arrested two weeks ago were suspected ‘militants’, and there were many reports of regular civilians being detained without a warrant and forced to pay bribes in exchange for their release. In addition, members of the political opposition and human rights activists are currently in prison or constantly threatened for speaking out against violations or being critical of the regime. The government has also recently put forth increasingly restrictive laws in the name of national security that severely restrict fundamental freedoms and target human rights defenders and dissenting voices.

The fight against terrorism and security concerns cannot be used as a pretext for violating people’s most basic rights. The increasing violence in Bangladesh will not be addressed by such sweeping "security measures". The mass detention of people with no warrant and total disregard for due process will only exacerbate the climate of impunity felt throughout the country, which has led to the proliferation of violence and terrorist attacks.

FIDH therefore reiterates its call for independent and transparent investigations into the violent murders, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and terrorist threats that have and continue to take place in Bangladesh, regardless of the background and political or religious affiliation of the perpetrators. Addressing impunity, with respect for due process and fundamental rights, is the only way to counter the social and political violence and re-establish a sense of rule of law in Bangladesh.

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