U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Bangladesh
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Bangladesh, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa6514.html [accessed 21 December 2014]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
BANGLADESHBangladesh is a parliamentary democracy headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed, leader of the Awami League, which came to power in 1996 in national elections deemed generally free and fair by domestic and international observers. Major opposition parties include the previous ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the Jatiyo Party, and the Jamaat-E-Islami. A 1996 constitutional amendment requires a neutral caretaker government to conduct all general parliamentary elections. Nevertheless, elections are often marred by violence and rigging. The judiciary displays a high degree of independence. The Home Affairs Ministry controls the police and paramilitary forces, which bear primary responsibility for maintaining internal security. The army and paramilitary forces are responsible for security in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), where a tribal group has waged a low-level insurgency since 1974. In December government and rebel negotiators signed an accord to end the insurgency in the Chittagong Hill Tract (CHT). Police officers committed a number of serious human rights abuses. Bangladesh is a poor country. Annual per capita income is approximately $260; about 45 percent of the country's 124 million people exist on incomes insufficient to meet minimum daily needs. Seventy percent of the work force is involved in agriculture, which accounts for approximately one-third of the gross domestic product. There is a growing industrial sector, based largely on the manufacture of garments, textiles, industrial goods such as rerolled steel, cement, and jute. There is a small wealthy elite, and a middle class is emerging. Efforts to reform the economy have been hampered by endemic corruption, political turmoil and the opposition of public sector enterprises, government bureaucrats, and other vested interests. The Government continues to restrict or deny many fundamental rights. Police committed extrajudicial killings, and some people died in police custody under suspicious circumstances. Police routinely use torture and other forms of abuse in interrogating suspects. The Government rarely convicts and punishes those responsible for torture or unlawful deaths. Prison conditions are poor. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Government did not repeal the Special Powers Act (SPA), which allows for arbitrary arrest and preventive detention; it used the SPA to harass political opponents and other citizens by detaining them without formal charge. A large case backlog slows the judicial process, and lengthy pretrial detention is a problem. The Government sometimes infringes on citizens? privacy rights. The Government places some limitations on freedom of assembly. Women, minorities, the disabled, religious minorities, and indigenous people face societal discrimination. Violence against women and trafficking of women and children for prostitution remain serious problems. The Government continues to limit worker rights, and child labor is a widespread and serious problem. Vigilante justice resulted in numerous killings.