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Annual Report Bangladesh
Amnesty International - May 24, 2012
Extrajudicial executions continued despite a government pledge to end them. Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) personnel, suspected of more than 54 unlawful killings during the year, were neither investigated independently nor brought to justice. The government failed to enforce its new policy to support women victims of violence. Amendments to the rules governing the Bangladeshi International Crimes Tribunal reduced, but did not eliminate, the possibility of unfair trials for those accused of 1971 war crimes. The government failed to secure the right to livelihood and land of Indigenous People in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. More than 49 people were sentenced to death and at least five men were executed.
In June, Parliament passed the 15th amendment to the Constitution, which removed provisions allowing for elections to be organized by a non-party caretaker government. It also banned the military from assuming state power. Also in June, the World Bank announced that Bangladesh had reduced poverty levels and improved living standards. However, more than 35 per cent of the rural population and 21 per cent of the urban population lived below the poverty line. In November, Parliament passed the Vested Property Return (Amendment) Act. The new law ended legally sanctioned violations of the economic and social rights of Hindus by allowing them to reclaim property that had been taken away under the decades old Vested Property Act.
RAB allegedly killed at least 54 people in 2011, bringing the total number of people killed since 2004 – when RAB was formed – to more than 700. RAB injured or tortured scores more. In many cases, family members told Amnesty International that victims died after being arrested by RAB and not in an encounter as RAB claimed. The authorities failed to investigate these incidents credibly.
Under a new National Women Development Policy, published in March, the Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs announced a plan to, among other things, "eradicate violence against, and oppression of, women and children by providing medical treatment, legal assistance and counselling to abused women and children". Human rights organizations said the authorities had failed to implement the plan and many women and children subjected to sexual and other violence were receiving no support from state institutions.
In May, the International Crimes Tribunal, a Bangladeshi court set up in 2010 to try people accused of large-scale human rights abuses during the 1971 war of independence, began to address procedural shortcomings that were rendering its trials unfair. Its amended Rules of Procedure provided for bail, presumption of innocence before guilt is proven, and measures to ensure the protection of witnesses and victims. However, a constitutional ban on the right to challenge the jurisdiction of the Tribunal remained in force.
The government failed to prevent confiscation of Indigenous Peoples' land by Bengali settlers in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. This led to violent clashes between the two communities, ending in loss of property and, at times, loss of lives. Bengali settlers usually entered Indigenous Peoples' land and appropriated it for agricultural use. Indigenous People told Amnesty International delegates visiting the area in March that Bengali settlers, emboldened by the army's tolerance of their actions, had frequently set fire to Indigenous homes, usually in clear sight of soldiers or other law enforcement personnel, without being stopped.
At least three people died in police custody, allegedly after being tortured. The government announced that criminal charges would be brought against any police personnel found responsible for these deaths. However, no one was charged or prosecuted by the end of the year. The government did not commit to bringing to justice police, RAB or other security personnel who allegedly tortured thousands of individuals in their custody throughout the year.
At least five men were executed, and more than 49 people were sentenced to death.
Amnesty International delegates visited Bangladesh in March, June and November.