Annual Report: Bangladesh 2010

Report
May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Bangladesh 2010

View More Research

Head of state Zillur Rahman (replaced Iajuddin Ahmed in February)
Head of government Sheikh Hasina (replaced Fakhruddin Ahmed in January)
Death penalty retentionist
Population 162.2 million
Life expectancy 65.7 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 58/56 per 1,000
Adult literacy 53.5 per cent

At least 74 people including civilians and army officers were killed during a Bangladesh Rifles(BDR) mutiny in February. After the mutiny, over 3,000 BDR personnel were detained, at least 48 of whom died in custody. Police and security forces were implicated in the alleged extrajudicial executions of up to 70 criminal suspects. At least 64 people were sentenced to death and at least three were executed. Women continued to be victims of acid attacks, rape, beatings and other attacks, with little preventive action from the authorities.

Background

The Awami League government took office in January, ending two years of an army-backed state of emergency under a civilian caretaker government. The new government endorsed some institutional reforms which the caretaker government had initiated under temporary legislation. These included the Human Rights Commission Act which Parliament enacted in July. The government also set up the Information Commission in July after Parliament passed the Right to Information Act in March.

Repression of dissent

Police continued to use unnecessary and excessive force against protesters.

  • In September, dozens of police attacked peaceful protesters with batons in Dhaka at a rally organized by the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports. At least 20 protesters, including one of their leaders, Professor Anu Mohammed, were injured. Some 1,000 protesters were calling for greater transparency in the government's decision to award contracts to international oil companies. There was no independent investigation of the attack.

BDR rebellion – torture and fear of unfair trials

Members of the BDR launched a large-scale mutiny in February at the BDR headquarters in Dhaka. Mutineers killed at least 74 people, including six civilians, 57 army officers, one army soldier, nine jawans (lowest BDR rank), and one as yet unidentified person. Thousands of BDR personnel were subsequently confined to barracks and denied all outside contact. Reports soon emerged that scores – possibly hundreds – of BDR personnel suffered human rights violations, including torture, for possible involvement in the mutiny. At least 20 BDR personnel died in custody between March and May alone. BDR officials claimed that four men committed suicide, and 16 died from natural causes. By 10 October, the total number of BDR personnel who died in custody was 48. There were allegations that torture may have been the cause or a contributing factor in some of these deaths. An official committee set up in May to investigate the deaths had not submitted its report by year's end.

An official investigation into the circumstances of the mutiny failed to establish its causes. Another investigation by the Criminal Investigation Department of the police to identify charges against more than 3,000 BDR personnel awaiting trial had not submitted its report by year's end. The government confirmed in September that trials for killings, hostage-taking and looting would take place in civilian courts. It was not clear what resources, particularly in terms of additional training for judges, were available to courts to provide fair trials to such an unprecedented number of defendants.