Recently elected Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina waves to supporters on the balcony of her residence in Dhaka on January 1, 2009.

© 2009 Reuters

(New York) - The new Awami League government of Bangladesh has a unique opportunity and the responsibility to address major human rights problems that have been ignored by successive governments, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The letter makes specific recommendations for reform on subjects such as extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary detention, corruption, and the role of the Rapid Action Battalion and Directorate General for Forces Intelligence.

"The new government has a large majority and a public hungry for reform," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "We look forward to the government using the strong mandate the prime minister and her party have obtained to tackle the very serious abuses that Bangladeshis face at the hands of the security forces and others."

Human Rights Watch urged the government to use the February 3 session of the UN Human Rights Council to show the priority it places on addressing longstanding human rights problems by making concrete and specific commitments. Bangladesh is one of the countries whose rights records will be scrutinized in February under the council's Universal Periodic Review mechanism.

"How the government responds to recommendations for human rights progress at the Human Rights Council will be an early test for the new government," said Adams.