Annual Report: Bangladesh 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Bangladesh 2011

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Head of state: Zillur Rahman
Head of government: Sheikh Hasina
Death penalty: retentionist
Population: 164.4 million
Life expectancy: 66.9 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 58/56 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 55 per cent

Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) personnel and other police officers detained more than 1,500 people, many of them arbitrarily, during demonstrations. They used excessive force against demonstrators, injuring hundreds. RAB and the police continued to be implicated in extrajudicial executions. At least six detainees died in police custody, allegedly from torture. Nine men were executed and at least 32 men were sentenced to death. Six people were detained for war crimes. The government failed to adequately protect the Jumma Indigenous people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts against attacks from Bengali settlers.


In February, the Supreme Court upheld a 2005 High Court judgement that declared the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution unlawful. The ruling did not provide new scope for investigation of human rights violations committed between August 1975 and April 1979, which the Amendment had shielded. In March, Bangladesh ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Violence against women and girls

According to government figures, violence against women topped all crimes reported to the police in the first six months of the year. Of 7,285 complaints made, 1,586 were rape cases. Parliament passed the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill in October.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions

RAB and other police officers detained more than 1,500 opposition supporters, many of them arbitrarily, for between one week and two months during student protests or street rallies, which were at times violent. Dozens of the detainees were charged with violent criminal activity. The rest were released without charge.

  • In February, police arrested some 300 supporters of Islami Chhatra Shibir, the student wing of the opposition party Jamaat-e-Islami, and detained them for up to two months in Dhaka, Rajshahi, Chittagong and other cities. The arrests followed a wave of student violence at major university campuses. Four students died during clashes between rival groups. Scores of Awami League party student activists were also reported to be involved in the violence. Police detained around a dozen of them.
  • In June, more than 200 people, including 20 leading members of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), were arrested and detained for between one and five weeks, during and immediately after a general strike called by the party.

Excessive use of force

  • On 27 June, RAB personnel used excessive force during a raid on the house of Mirza Abbas, a leading BNP politician and former mayor of Dhaka. They attacked those gathered peacefully inside the house during the general strike called by the opposition. They beat and injured at least 20 people, mostly women.
  • Dozens of people were injured in June and August as police clashed with hundreds of striking textile workers calling for higher wages. No RAB or other police personnel were charged for the attacks.

Extrajudicial executions

The government failed to fulfil its pledge to end extrajudicial executions. Bangladeshi human rights groups estimated the number of suspected extrajudicial executions by RAB and other police officers at more than 60 for the first 10 months of the year.