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UN warns against further violence in Bangladesh
Publication Date : 02-12-2013
Deeply worried by the escalation of political violence in Bangladesh, a senior UN official yesterday cautioned the country’s leaders, reminding them that the perpetrators of political or election related violence had faced prosecution in other situations.
Noting that Bangladesh is a state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said, “In other situations, we have seen cases of political or election related violence where the perpetrators of such acts — including political leadership — have faced prosecution.”
“Whatever their differences, political leaders on both sides must halt their destructive brinkmanship, which is pushing Bangladesh dangerously close to a major crisis,” she said in a statement issued from Geneva yesterday.
On a similar note, the European Union has urged political leaders of the two rival camps to refrain from any actions that could spark further violence.
“The EU calls on the leaders of all political parties to agree on a mutually acceptable formula so as to facilitate the holding of elections which fully
reflect the wishes of the people,” Catherine Ashton, high representative of the EU for foreign affairs, said in a statement.
The strongly-worded statements came in the wake of an apparent failure of a series of diplomatic efforts by the international community that has long been trying to persuade the ruling Awami League and the main opposition BNP to reach an agreement over the next parliamentary polls.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had earlier issued statements, made phone calls and written to Bangladesh’s two top leaders, and also sent his deputy twice to Dhaka to see a dialogue between the two sides for reaching a consensus on the next election.
US Secretary of State John Kerry also sent letters to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia with a similar call.
In a fresh move to end the political stalemate, the UN chief is sending Oscar Fernández-Taranco, UN assistant secretary general for political affairs, to Bangladesh.
The UN official is expected to arrive in Dhaka on December 6 to have discussions with all stakeholders to solve the ongoing crisis through dialogue for holding “an inclusive, non-violent and credible election”.
Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh will also fly in on December 4 to hold talks with leaders of the ruling and the opposition parties on the current political situation in Bangladesh.
Navi Pillay said she was deeply worried by the rising levels of political violence in Bangladesh, as the major parties fail to resolve their differences over the conduct of elections.
In recent weeks, supporters of both parties have been clashing with each other and with the security forces. Scores of people have been killed and hundreds injured, and there has been extensive destruction of property, said Pillay.
“In the past week, we have seen acts as extreme as protestors throwing molotov cocktails onto public buses without allowing the occupants to escape, leaving women and children with horrific burns.”
Such levels of violence are deeply shocking for the Bangladeshi people, the vast majority of whom want — and deserve — a peaceful and inclusive election.”
Pillay also expressed concern over the arrests and detention of key opposition leaders by law enforcement agencies. “This can further inflame the situation and rule out any possibility for engagement and dialogue between the main political parties.”
Urging political leaders on both sides to “halt their destructive brinkmanship”, she said, “Instead, they must fulfil their responsibility and use their influence to bring this violence to an immediate halt and seek a solution to this crisis through dialogue.”
Ashton, also vice president of the European Commission, said, “Following the announcement of the general elections in Bangladesh on 5 Jan 2014, the EU remains concerned that there is still confrontation between the major political groups in the country on the composition of the government during the electoral period.”
“The EU is ready to consider sending election observers as it did in 2008. However, this depends on the political and security situation in Bangladesh,” read the statement issued from Brussels on November 30.
“Ending violence and finding a political solution through dialogue are essential to allow a peaceful, inclusive, transparent and credible election to take place. This can only happen if all sides can agree to move ahead, in the interests of the country’s future.”
The EU calls on the leaders of all political parties to agree on a mutually acceptable formula so as to facilitate the holding of elections which fully reflect the wishes of the people. It welcomes the efforts of those who have been working to achieve this,” it said.
“We urge political leaders to refrain from any actions that could spark further violence. The EU remains concerned about intimidation and confrontation in the form of ‘hartals’ (political strikes) and about the arrest of politicians and human rights defenders.”
The EU urged Bangladesh to respect human rights and democratic principles, and to ensure full respect for the rights of detainees.
It also said civil society groups must be able to play their fundamental role in the maintenance of democratic freedom.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister AMA Muhith said there will be no question about the credibility of the next polls even if the EU doesn’t send election observers.
The Awami League is a party that believes in free and fair polls, and the upcoming election would also be free and fair, Muhith told reporters in Sylhet yesterday afternoon.