The US Department of State has said there was widespread impunity for abuses and corruption carried out by Bangladeshi security forces, including the military, police, border guards, and counterterrorism units such as the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).
It also mentioned that the security agencies are violating human rights under a government which did not believe in judicial independence.
"The [Bangladesh] government took few measures to investigate and prosecute cases of corruption and abuse, and killing by security forces," reads the report launched by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The Bangladesh government has criticised the report titled "2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Bangladesh", saying it contained "misinformation" collected primarily from "anti-government propaganda machines".
Terming portions of the report a lie, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam said, "We are thoroughly studying the report and will share in detail with the press on Sunday."
He said the government will do whatever necessary to help change the US government's "wrong perception".
The state minister pointed out some aspects of the report where the government was blamed without any justification. "It's wrong. It's a lie. It's far from reality."
US Embassy officials at a press briefing on Wednesday claimed that the data on human rights violations, disappearances and others had been collected through different channels and organisations.
They said there was no sign that the US sanctions on RAB and several officials would be lifted soon.
According to the findings of the report, significant human rights issues in Bangladesh include credible reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; forced disappearance; torture or cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government or its agents on behalf of the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrests or detentions; political prisoners; politically motivated reprisals against individuals in another country; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary and arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy.
The US State Department accused the Bangladesh government of making "limited efforts" to prevent, investigate, or punish such acts.
The US Embassy officials also rubbished Bangladesh foreign minister's earlier claim about more people going missing in the US than in Bangladesh.
Saying the comparison wasn't factual, they asked where the minister got his statistics from.
Citing Bangladeshi human rights organisation Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), the US State Department report said, "at least 80 individuals died in extrajudicial killings during the year, including 51 in so-called shootouts or crossfires with law enforcement agencies.
"Between May 2018 and June, there were a total of 606 incidents of alleged extrajudicial executions," it added.
On Wednesday, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told reporters that there were some flaws with the US report.
"The number of disappearances and murders being talked are not on our record. No one in our country is above justice," he said.
The home minister also said that if anyone committed such offences after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took charge, they would have to face the law.
"We have often searched for victims of disappearances...Many of them may have gone into hiding. You see, a few days ago, a man, after two-and-a-half years, said he went missing on purpose because of family issues."
The home minister also said security forces had found many people, emphasising that there had to be discrepancy in what the report said.
What the US report said
The US report brought up numerous instances of human rights violations, along with abuses committed by security forces.
"Paris-based organisation International Federation of Human Rights reported enforced disappearances continued throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, targeting opposition members, political activists, and individuals who were critical of the government's policies and response to the pandemic," the report said.
Citing some examples, the US State Department report said, "On 25 February, media reported writer Mushtaq Ahmed died in prison after being held in pretrial detention for 10 months. Ahmed was charged under the DSA for posting criticism of the government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic on Facebook. On 3 March, the inspector general of prisons told the media a three-member investigation committee found 'no evidence of negligence.'
"On 4 March, the minister of home affairs announced Ahmed died of natural causes and found no visible evidence of wounds or bruises on his body. According to Ahmed Kabir Kishore, a cartoonist detained by the RAB alongside Ahmed, Mushtaq Ahmed endured 'extensive torture', including being 'beaten a lot' and subjected to electric shock torture to the genitals during his detention."
Lieutenant Colonel Ashiq Billah, spokesperson of the elite force, rejected the allegations of torture and dismissed Kishore's complaints as "lies."
"On 10 March, Kishore filed a legal claim with a Dhaka court under the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act alleging that he and Ahmed were tortured in custody. Although police records state he was arrested by Unit 3 of the RAB (RAB-3) in May 2020, Kishore said he was picked up from his residence by men in plainclothes three days prior," the report said, adding that Kishore had also detailed the alleged torture he experienced in custody.
In March, the UN Human Rights Council released a statement urging the "prompt, transparent, and independent" investigation into Ahmed's death, the "overhaul" of the DSA, the release of all detained under the law, and an investigation into allegations of ill-treatment of other detainees, including Kishore.
The office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that allegations of torture and ill-treatment by the RAB were a "long-standing concern."
The report also said that 10 Rohingya refugees were victims of extrajudicial killings, adding that the community saw a "disproportionate percentage of reported crossfire killings".
"In all these cases, the media reported security forces conducted raids to find the alleged criminals. After speaking with family members of the deceased, Amnesty International reported several of those killed were picked up from their homes by police and later found dead," it added.
The report also mentioned the arrest of actor Shamsunnahar Smriti, popularly known as Pori Moni, following an attempted rape and murder case filed by her against a powerful businessman.