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UN rights chief urges Bangladesh to halt 'brinkmanship' protests

Government and opposition need peaceful solution to election dispute

UN rights chief urges Bangladesh to halt 'brinkmanship' protests

Dispute over election-time government has sparked weeks of violence in Bangladesh (photo by Shahadat Hosen) reporter, Dhaka

December 2, 2013

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Concerned over escalating political violence and deaths in Bangladesh, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged the country’s political leaders to set their differences aside and immediately halt “destructive brinkmanship” and use their influence to ease the unrest.

In a press statement on Sunday, Pillay decried that major political parties have failed to come to a consensus over the conduct of upcoming elections in recent weeks and supporters of both parties have been clashing with each other and with security forces.

“In the past week, we have seen acts as extreme as protesters throwing molotov cocktails onto public buses without allowing the occupants to escape, leaving women and children with horrific burns,” Pillay said. “Such levels of violence are deeply shocking for the Bangladeshi people, the vast majority of whom want – and deserve – a peaceful and inclusive election.”

Pillay also said that she was concerned about the ongoing arrest and detention of key opposition leaders by the law enforcement agencies. “This can further inflame the situation and rule out any possibility for engagement and dialogue between the main political parties,” she said.

“Whatever their differences, political leaders on both sides must halt their destructive brinkmanship, which is pushing Bangladesh dangerously close to a major crisis. Instead, they must fulfill their responsibility and use their influence to bring this violence to an immediate halt and seek a solution to this crisis through dialogue.”

For more than a month, Bangladesh has seen deadly political violence in ongoing protest strikes by a coalition of opposition forces led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). More than 50 people have been killed and scores injured in street clashes between supporters of opposition parties, ruling Awami League and security forces.

The coalition is demanding that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government resign so a non-partisan caretaker administration can oversee national elections next year.

Earlier last month, the BNP rejected joining a multi-party election-time government headed by Hasina and threatened to boycott polls, alleging that elections might be rigged if Hasina stays in office.

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