Bangladesh authorities must conduct prompt, thorough, impartial, and independent investigations into the death of at least 14 protesters across the country between 26 and 28 March, and respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, said 11 human rights organizations in a joint statement today.
The organizations also called on the international community to urge Bangladeshi authorities to put an end to the practice of torturing and the forced disappearance of opposition activists.
The statement said police and members of the ruling Awami League, between 20 and 26 March, attacked a series of protests called by Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh, a non-partisan religious group, including hartal observers. Hefajat enforced the nationwide hartal, protesting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Bangladesh.
Human rights organisations, including the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Amnesty International and the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM ASIA), called on the United Nations and the international community to urge the Bangladeshi authorities to respect the people's right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
They urged the government to exercise restraint while policing demonstrations and avoid the use of unnecessary and excessive force against peaceful protesters.
Calling for an end to the torture and forced disappearance of people participating in protests, they urged an immediate disclosure of the fate and whereabouts of those who remain in state custody. They must be released unless they are immediately produced in a court of law and charged with a recognizable criminal offense, the statement added.
Impartial and independent investigations into allegations of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees was demanded with a call for justice in fair trials without recourse to the death penalty.
It urged a stop to mass detention of protesters and the immediate release of those detained, unless they can be charged with a recognizable criminal offense.
A call for ensuring unfettered access to information and lifting all restrictions imposed on social media platforms was also made by the organisations.
Government authorities were also urged to refrain from shutting down the internet as a means of obstructing peaceful protests.