Bangladeshi Security Forces Used Excessive Force During Raid, Says Amnesty International

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Bangladeshi Security Forces Used Excessive Force During Raid, Says Amnesty International

WASHINGTON - Bangladeshi security forces
used excessive force during a raid on the house of a senior opposition
politician on June 27, Amnesty International said today.

The Bangladesh Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) carried out a violent attack
on those gathered peacefully inside the house of Mirza Abbas, a leading
Bangladesh National Party (BNP) politician and former mayor of Dhaka,
according
to testimony given to Amnesty International.

Victims of the raid described sustained and unprovoked beatings of
activists
and Mirza Abbas' family members, denial of medical treatment after
arrests,
and the eliciting of signatures on blank forms as a condition of
release,
which Amnesty International suspects are for the purpose of falsifying
confessions.

Amnesty International has photographed injuries to male and female
victims
of the beatings. More than twenty people were injured during the raid,
including Mirza Abbas' wife Afroza Abbas and his 85 year-old
mother. BNP supporters had gathered at Mirza Abbas's house after he been
arrested and accused of involvement in violence during a general strike
called by the party.

"The government should immediately investigate the circumstances
surrounding
this violent raid and ensure that any people hurt by security officials
receive justice and appropriate compensation," said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty
International's Bangladesh researcher, from Dhaka.

Amnesty International is calling on the authorities to order security
forces
to comply with their obligations to exercise restraint and avoid the use
of excessive force as the country faces a series of clashes during
protests.
At least 80 people have been injured over the past two days as police
clashed
with striking textile workers and protesters contesting the arrest of
three
top leaders of the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party.

The main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP),
called
for a national strike on June 27. The strike, which was generally
orderly,
sparked off clashes between the police and demonstrators in some parts
of the country, including in Dhaka.

Hundreds of people have been arrested on allegations of involvement in
violence, including Mirza Abbas.

"There has been no evidence that the people in Mirza Abbas' house were
violating any law or in any way threatening anyone, so the violent
actions
of RAB seem totally unjustified," said Faiz. "Given RAB's history of
using of excessive, even lethal, force, this incident demands an
immediate
and strong reaction from the authorities."

The RAB claims that the security forces entered the ground floor office
of Mirza Abbas after people had thrown pieces of bricks at them from
that
direction.

However, video footage taken by journalists and viewed by Amnesty
International
shows no sign of people attacking RAB officers in or around the house,
but rather, shows RAB personnel attacking people inside the house.

One woman told Amnesty International that she was in the courtyard
fetching
water when RAB personnel stormed in and grabbed her: "They beat me
on my back, the back of my thighs, my arms and my shoulders with a
baton.
I fell on the ground but the RAB people continued beating me."

She said four or five men beat her until she lost consciousness, and
that
she did not go to hospital out of fear of arrest there.

Another woman said she was handcuffed in front of the house, then was
tied
up with a rope and dragged into the courtyard where she was beaten. She
was detained for eight hours by police, denied medical treatment, and
only
released on condition that her husband sign a blank piece of paper that
they feared would be used to manufacture false evidence.

A woman who ran to the bathroom to hide from the security forces told
Amnesty
International that the RAB chased her, forced the bathroom door open,
dragged
her out and began to beat her. "I kept asking why they were beating
me, but they did not stop and did not answer."

A RAB official who spoke to Amnesty International said "perhaps there
should have been more restraint; if there have been excesses, these
would
be investigated."

However, the government has so far ignored calls from BNP politicians
and
at least one MP of the governing Awami League to address RAB excesses in
the raid.

"The government of Bangladesh must stop praising security forces for
carrying out human rights violations, and instead make them accountable
to the rule of law," said Faiz.

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