HRW bins ‘genocide’ claim by BNP, Hefazat Staff CorrespondentNew York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a statement Saturday said that claims of ‘genocide’ by opposition BNP and Hefazat-e-Islam at Shapla Chattar in Dhaka are unfounded and have only served to heighten tensions.
It has also expressed grave concern, saying that Hefazat recruited boys from madrassahs to participate in the Dhaka siege programme on 5 May and many of the boys were unaware of the risks of marching into Dhaka.
The HRW further said after the protests were broken up by security forces, they encountered groups of boys who had never been to Dhaka before and were terrified by the experience of seeing dead bodies and large-scale violence. The boys asked journalists for directions to bus stations so they could go home. They were no longer accompanied by adults, it added.
“Putting children in harm’s way is extremely irresponsible. Hefazat can’t credibly claim that it didn’t understand the risks, particularly as many of its supporters engaged in attacks on police that were then met with an armed response,” Brad Adams, Asia Director of the Human Rights Watch said in the statement.
The rights body said Bangladeshi authorities should immediately set up an independent commission to investigate the large numbers of deaths and injuries during the Hefazat-e-Islam-led protests in Dhaka and elsewhere on May 5-6.
“The exact number of deaths during the May 5-6 protest remains unclear, with figures ranging from the official government figure of 11 deaths to Hefazat’s estimate of thousands. Independent news sources put the figure at approximately 50 dead, with others succumbing to injuries later. The dead include several security personnel,” the HRW statement said.
The HRW also called on the opposition parties especially the main opposition BNP, Jammat-e-Islami and Hefazat-e-Islam 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.
“The Bangladeshi government has a responsibility to victims, whether protesters, bystanders or police, to ensure that an effective investigation is carried out into each death,” Brad Adams said.