Bangladesh tumbled backward on human rights in 2013 as the government engaged in a harsh crackdown on members of civil society, the media and political opposition, Human Rights Watch said in its World Report 2014 released Tuesday.
The authorities often employed violent and illegal measures against protesters, and failed to initiate any investigations into credible allegations of unlawful deaths at the hands of its security forces, it said.
Measures to protect labour rights after a series of factory deaths fell far short of international standards.
In the 667-page world report, its 24th edition, Human Rights Watch reviewed human rights practices in more than 90 countries.
Violent street protests broke out in Bangladesh in February, and have continued through the year, killing nearly 200 and injuring thousands.
The earlier protests were linked to decisions by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), a court set up to put on trial those responsible for war crimes and other abuses during Bangladesh’s liberation war in 1971.
Street violence continued after the main opposition party alliance decided to boycott the Jan 5 elections.
While the political parties have failed to restrain their supporters from engaging in violence, state forces, on occasion, used excessive force to restore law and order.
The December execution of Abdul Qader Mollah, a senior member of opposition party Jamaat-e-Islami, led to further protests and violence at the end of the year.
The authorities arbitrarily arrested members of the main opposition Bangladesh National Party.
“Atheist” bloggers were arrested, as was a prominent newspaper editor. In August, human rights defenders Adilur Rahman Khan and Nasiruddin Elan were arrested, the report said.
Despite pledges, the government failed to improve worker conditions in garment and other industries after the deaths of more than 1,100 workers in the April 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza building, it said.
Under domestic and international pressure, the Bangladeshi parliament enacted changes to the Labour Act in July.
In a positive move, the authorities dropped criminal charges against several labour rights leaders that appeared to be politically motivated, it said.
The courts also ordered all charges to be dropped against Limon Hossain, a young man shot and maimed by security forces in a botched operation in 2011.