End crackdown, rights body tells Bangladesh

London, Jan 4 (IANS) The Bangladesh government should end its crackdown on opposition leaders and activists and create conditions for free and fair elections, Human Rights Watch said Saturday.

Opposition parties should also condemn and end violence by their supporters which have caused hundreds of casualties, it said. Bangladesh will hold national elections Sunday.
The main opposition alliance led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has announced it will boycott the polls, demanding that they be held under a neutral caretaker government.
As a result, 153 of the 300 seats have been left uncontested.
Bangladesh authorities are using arbitrary arrests, indiscriminate use of force, and other tactics to keep people from demonstrating against the elections, justifying their actions by pointing to earlier protests that turned violent, Human Rights Watch said.
At least 120 people have been killed in incidents of pre-election violence, including in firing by security forces, Human Rights Watch said, that have not yet been properly investigated.
“For an election to be free and fair, voters need to be able to vote in an atmosphere of free expression and free association,” said Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch.
“The actions of Bangladeshi political leaders – whether the government crackdown on the opposition or the opposition complicity in poll violence – deprive the country’s voters of any true choice.”