Human Rights Watch urges the interim government to recognize that genuine reform cannot be built on a foundation of torture, arbitrary arrest, and impunity. Reforms must be carried out with respect for basic rights as found in international human rights law and norms.
If the government does not have the power to act against the abusers, it should say so publicly so that attention can be fully shifted to the army, DGFI and others to address the problem. Specifically, Human Rights Watch urges the interim government, with the active and public support of concerned governments and international agencies, to:
- Immediately repeal the emergency regulations under the state of emergency and restore fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution.
- Make ending torture a top priority.
- Discipline, or prosecute as appropriate, members of the security forces, including the DGFI, the army, RAB, police and other government officials, regardless of rank, responsible for arbitrary arrests and mistreatment of persons in detention.
- End the use of coercion, intimidation and threats in government dealings with the print and electronic media. Halt threats to the media by the DGFI, army, police and RAB.
- Announce as early an election date as feasible.
- End the practice of arbitrary arrest; arrests should be made only for legally cognizable offenses and in accordance with the law.
- Use only official places of detention and end the use of irregular sites, such as those maintained by DGFI, that facilitate the use of torture.
- Close the DGFIs detention centers.
- Allow access by independent monitors to all places of detention.
- Provide detainees prompt access to legal counsel and family members.
- Promptly charge or release all emergency detainees, including those held under emergency rules.
- End impunity for the security forces for human rights violations by initiating credible and impartial investigations and prosecutions.
- Establish a credible witness protection program for witnesses who testify in cases involving members of the security forces.
- Reform the law concerning non-bailable offenses to ensure that pre-trial custody be ordered only if there is a reasonable suspicion that the accused has committed the alleged offense and is likely to abscond, interfere with the course of justice, or commit a serious offense.
- Ensure that those whose rights have been violated have an effective remedy in independent courts, with identification and prosecution of those responsible for torture, and fair and adequate compensation.
- Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture on monitoring places of detention to prevent torture, and rapidly implement it.
- Make the required declarations under Article 21 and 22 of the Convention against Torture so that the Committee Against Torture can receive individual communications.
- Ensure the separation of the judiciary from the executive in practice as well as in law and the independent and professional operation of the Judicial Service Commission.
- Ensure that an independent National Human Rights Commission now being contemplated is established in accordance with international standards (the Paris Principles), which include ensuring the commission has authority to investigate abuses by the army and all other security forces.
- Press the interim government, through public and private diplomacy, to implement the above recommendations.
- Insist on the lifting of the state of emergency and restoration of fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution and international law.
- Urge the government and army to announce an election date for as early as feasible in 2008. Provide all necessary technical assistance, including to ensure creation of a voter registration list without fake voters or other irregularities. Insist on the appointment of an independent national election commission with independent members.
- End support and training programs for the army, DGFI and RABunless specifically to promote human rightsuntil there is an end to the pattern and practice of torture and extrajudicial executions.
- Encourage the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) to thoroughly review the participation in peacekeeping operations of all Bangladeshi soldiers and police, including commanders, to ensure that they have not committed or been responsible for ordering or tolerating serious human rights violations.