Human Rights Watch (HRW) today urged the Bangladesh government to "halt arbitrary arrests, prosecute those involved in violent attacks, and immediately and unconditionally release people it has thrown in jail just for speaking out."
Brad Adams, Asia director of the international human rights watchdog, in a news release alleged that the government led by Sheikh Hasina "appears unable to tolerate criticism after Awami League supporters attacked protesters with machetes, sticks, and metal pipes and is apparently desperate to shut down dissent.”
The HRW in the news report alleged that authorities in Bangladesh have detained dozens of people by tracking them on their social media accounts for criticising the government over violent crackdown on peaceful protesters.
"The recent wave of arrests, targeting student protesters and journalists, has created an atmosphere of fear, putting a serious chill on free speech," the international human rights watchdog said in a new release on its website.
Citing the recent detentions of renowned photographer Shahidul Alam and an actress Quazi Nawshaba Ahmed, the HRW said nearly all such "arrests have been made under section 57 of the draconian Information and Communication Technology Act (ICT Act)."
"The vague and overly broad law has been used repeatedly over the years to stifle criticism. Bangladesh authorities had earlier recognized that the law is misused and stated that the government has no intention of curbing free speech. Instead, Bangladesh authorities have done just that," Human Rights Watch said.
Thousands of students took to the streets after a speeding bus killed two students on July 29, 2018. The protesters called for safer roads, accountable governance, and the upholding of the rule of law but were met with teargas and rubber bullets from security forces and violent attacks by supporters of the ruling Awami League, it said.
After police stood by while government supporters beat up the student protesters, the authorities moved quickly to stifle any condemnation of the violence. Dhaka police have been conducting block raids in residential areas of the city where many university students live, it added.
Students told Human Rights Watch that police have been going door-to-door, raiding houses, and checking phones for communications related to the protests.
Source: Daily Star