New York, May 3 (IANS) With new protests planned in the coming days, the Bangladesh government should ensure that security forces stop using excessive force against protesters, Human Rights Watch said Friday.
The government should appoint an independent commission to investigate the deaths of dozens of protesters, including children, since large-scale street protests began in February, and prosecute anyone responsible for unlawful killings and use of force.
Eyewitness accounts obtained by Human Rights Watch demonstrate that police, the Border Guards of Bangladesh (BGB) and the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) have shot live ammunition and rubber bullets into unarmed crowds, conducted sweeping arrests, and used other forms of excessive force during and after protests that began in February and continue.
The use of lethal force has taken place in multiple locations in Dhaka as well as the northern and southern districts of the country, Human Rights Watch said.
"Security forces confronted with large groups of demonstrators have opened fire on crowds, often without warning, killing unarmed protesters and bystanders," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
"It is the government's responsibility to ensure that this stops, and to replace officials who have failed to properly supervise forces under their control."
Human Rights Watch also called on opposition parties to condemn and take steps to deter their supporters from carrying out unlawful attacks, including on law enforcement officers or members of the public with different political views.
Eight police officers have been killed during protests. The government has blamed the Jamaat-e-Islami party and the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) for the killings.
Human Rights Watch has interviewed family members and obtained medical reports which describe entry and exit wounds consistent with the use of live ammunition.
In the majority of the cases documented, protesters were shot in the head, chest or stomach. In at least six instances the victims were children.
Most of the deaths of protesters occurred in the week after the February 28 verdict by Bangladesh 's International War Crimes Tribunal (ICT) sentencing Jamaat leader Delwar Hossein Sayeedi to death.
Human Rights Watch interviewed eyewitnesses who described protests that broke out in cities and villages around the country.
In some cases they said protesters threw bricks and stones at security force barricades and police responded with the use of live fire.
Human Rights Watch also documented the deaths of eight police officers and three Awami League protesters during the recent violence.