The United States has expressed its concern over Bangladesh’s anti-drug crackdown that many have likened to President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal drug war in the Philippines.
Referring to reports suggesting that at least 147 people have been killed and 21,000 arrested since early May, the US State Department on Wednesday morning issued a statement urging Bangladesh “to conduct thorough and transparent investigations into all credible reports of extrajudicial killings”.
“We look to the Government of Bangladesh to fully meet its human rights obligations,” said State department spokesperson Heather Nauert.
Bangladesh has struggled with the menace of drugs for years and young people have been the prime target of drug dealers.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced a massive crackdown on drug traffickers last month leading to large number of arrests and killing that many human rights activists called “illegal and extrajudicial”.
Hasina has said the operation would be on the same scale as efforts to tackle Islamist militancy in the country, which has led to the deaths of dozens of suspects in recent years during raids on militant hideouts by Bangladesh police and paramilitary forces.
The State department acknowledged that illegal drugs are a scourge across the world, but also said: “Bangladesh should ensure its law enforcement respect human rights and that their conduct is consistent with international standards and Bangladesh’s own constitution, which includes a presumption of innocence and the right to due process.”
The US statement comes days after the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, and expressed “grave concern” that “such a large number of people have been killed.”
In his appeal to the government of Bangladesh, Zeid described official declarations that none of the victims was innocent as “dangerous…and indicative of a total disregard for the rule of law”.
The campaign group Human Rights Watch has also issued a statement asking the Bangladesh government to order an independent investigation into allegations of extrajudicial killings.