The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called upon the Bangladesh government and the Jamaat-e-Islami ‘to act urgently’ to avoid any further violence between security forces and party supporters.
“The leadership of Jamaat should immediately issue public statements to its followers to stop these violent, unacceptable attacks against law enforcement officers and those who support the verdicts of the war crimes trials,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of the New-York Based organisation in a statement on Saturday.
“At the same time, the government should instruct the security forces to strictly observe its obligation to use maximum restraint and avoid lethal force unless necessary to protect their lives or those of others. If cool heads don’t prevail, Dhaka could dissolve into uncontrolled violence,” he said.
The statement has been issued on the wake of violence that killed over 40 people since Feb 28 after the International Crimes Tribunal 1 (ICT 1) found Jamaat leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee gulty of crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War and sentenced him to death.
It said the initial information received by HRW suggested that the police were responding to attacks by Jamaat members and its supporters that resulted in the deaths of law enforcers and civilians after the party called for protests against the verdict.
“The Jamaat party has denied that their members are responsible for any lethal violence, but media reports indicate that members of Jamaat’s Shibir group were responsible for several attacks, including against Hindu temples and houses,” it said. The HRW also called on political leaders to avoid making comments or using rhetoric that could incite violence or otherwise inflame the situation.
Referring to the main opposition BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia’s comment, Adams said “The violence thus far is deplorable, but wild and exaggerated rhetoric about genocide risks inciting further retaliatory violence and should be avoided.”
The human rights organisation said that most deaths appear to have been caused by the security forces using live ammunition against Jamaat protesters.
According to information received by HRW, Shibir and other Jamaat supporters resorted to lethal violence after the Sayadee judgement.
It said, on March 1 Jamaat supporters killed Saju Mia, aged 30, and Nurunnata Sapu, aged 22, both supporters of the ruling Awami League, following vandalism against Jamaat businesses by a group of Awami League supporters.