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Saturday, 23 November, 2002, 18:53 GMT
Bangladesh rejects EU rights criticism
European parliament
The European Parliament expressed grave concern

The Bangladeshi Government has dismissed a European parliamentary resolution critical of alleged human rights violations during the current army-led operations against violent crime.

Bangladeshi soldiers in Dhaka
Thousands of soldiers have been deployed

A Foreign Office spokesman in Dhaka said the resolution was one-sided and did not reflect the realities on the ground.

Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's government deployed thousands of soldiers across the country on 17 October in "Operation Clean Heart" to arrest suspected criminals and recover illegal weapons.

The soldiers have arrested thousands of men and recovered arms, ammunition and explosives, but at least two dozen men have died after being detained, and critics at home and abroad have become vocal on this issue.

The main opposition party, the Awami League, has welcomed the European Parliament's observations.

'Serious concern'

Operation Clean Heart ran into trouble when several people died in army custody.

Opposition leader Sheikh Hasina
Sheikh Hasina's party welcomed the resolution

Door-to-door searches and patrols have significantly improved the law and order situation, but at least 26 people have now died following interrogation by the troops.

Some organisations, including Amnesty International, have questioned the operations' poor human rights record.

In a resolution passed on Thursday, the European Parliament expressed "serious concern" over the reported deaths, airing fears that the crackdown was being used for partisan purposes.

It said the army had arrested people, including some members of Bangladesh's parliament and opposition leaders, without any judicial mandate.

'Endorsement'

But the official government spokesman said the decision to deploy the army in a joint anti-crime drive had been welcomed by the society as a whole, because it had led to a sharp improvement in the law and order situation.

He said there was global recognition that Bangladesh faced a serious law and order situation that was inherited by the present government from its predecessors.

He said the operations were being conducted under the directive of a constitutionally and democratically elected government without any partisan approach whatsoever.

The spokesman said the army had set up necessary investigations into the allegations of deaths in custody and taken appropriate action.

But opposition leader Sheikh Hasina's Awami League party welcomed the European Parliament's resolution and said it endorsed the League's allegations about the partisan nature of the operations.

See also:

07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
20 Nov 02 | South Asia
14 Nov 02 | South Asia
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01 Nov 02 | South Asia
23 Oct 02 | South Asia
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