Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Surveillance in Bangladesh - Legal challenge to surveillance laws withdrawn unexpectedly

This is the fifth in the series of articles on surveillance in Bangladesh.

The other articles published by New Age can be found here:

Legal challenge to surveillance laws withdrawn unexpectedly

David Bergman

A High Court public interest writ challenging the constitutionality of legal provisions which introduced widespread phone surveillance in the country was unexpectedly withdrawn a year after the court had issued an order asking the government to set out why the provisions should not be set aside.

The order, passed in May 2006 by Justice Md Awlas Ali and Justice Zinat Ara asked the government why the law ‘should not be declared to be ultra vires, void and without legal authority and … of no legal effect.’

However, four months after a state of emergency was declared, and before the government responded to the court order, the petition was withdrawn without any reason given.

Md Assaduzzaman, the lawyer for the petitioners told New Age that, ‘I went to court in April 2007 to withdrawal the writ petition after receiving instructions from my client not to continue with the case.’

Surveillance in Bangladesh - Telecom operators retain 6 months of SMS, other info, for law enforcers

This is the third in the series of articles published in New Age about surveillance. This was originally published on 16 February 2015. 

You can access all five of the articles from this page
Telecom operators retain 6 months of SMS, other info, for law enforcers 
David Bergman 
Bangladesh’s six mobile phone operators are required to keep copies of all SMS messages sent by their subscribers for at least six months so they can be easily accessed by intelligence and law enforcement agencies, New Age has learnt.
In addition, the operators keep all ‘Call Related Information’, which includes details of all calls to and from a mobile phone, including the geo-location of the phone when the conversation took place.
‘We are required to keep this information according to the terms of our operating licence … At present we are required to keep SMS’s for six months,’ Nurul Kabir, the secretary general and chief executive officer of the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh told New Age.
‘After six months the information becomes difficult to retrieve. The operators have it in backup servers, and can pull it off, but it can be difficult,’ he said.

Surveillance in Bangladesh - Phone operators pay for govt’s surveillance system upgrade

This is the third in the series of articles published in New Age about surveillance. This was originally published on 15 February 2015. 

You can access all five of the articles from this page

Phone operators pay for govt’s surveillance system upgrade 
David Bergman

The country’s six mobile phone companies have paid for a multi-million dollar ‘upgrade’ to the government’s mobile phone surveillance system which allows intelligence and law enforcement authorities to directly record thousands of ongoing mobile phone conversations, New Age has learnt.
The upgrade, which will also allow greater access to mobile phone messages sent through e-mails and social networking sites, is being provided by the German company, Trovicor, one of the world’s leading suppliers of high end surveillance equipment and monitoring centres.
New Age has been told that the phone operators between them paid 20.1 million euros (Tk18.5 crore) for the upgrade – with the larger phone operators companies paying a larger share than the smaller ones.
Nurul Kabir, the secretary general and chief executive officer of the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh told New Age that the mobile phone operators had to pay for the surveillance system as it was ‘part of their license conditions’.

Surveillance in Bangladesh - RAB seeking purchase of mobile phone spy tool

This is the second in the series of reports published in New Age about surveillance in Bangladesh. This was originally published on 2 November 2014

You can access all five of the articles from this page
RAB seeking to purchase powerful mobile phone spy tool 
David Bergman

The Rapid Action Battalion is seeking to purchase a powerful mobile spy tool which can obtain details of all mobile phone numbers operating in a particular locality, according to a UK based privacy right organisation, Privacy International, which has published a copy of the procurement document on its website.
Known as an ‘IMSI catcher’, the equipment masquerades as a mobile phone base station and logs the telephone numbers of all the mobile phones in a particular area.
‘[IMSI] Catchers allow [law enforcement authorities] to indiscriminately gather data from thousands of mobile phones in a specific area and at public events such as political demonstrations,’ the Privacy International website states.
IMSI stands for International Mobile Subscriber Information.
The international non-governmental organisation is lobbying the Swiss government authorities to prevent a company, NeoSoft, from exporting the surveillance equipment to Bangladesh so that, ‘RAB’s capacity to engage in indiscriminate violence’ is not ‘augmented with indiscriminate surveillance technology.’
‘Such a technology in the hands of an agency as reportedly unaccountable as the RAB is extremely concerning,’ it said.

Surveillance in Bangladesh - Govt purchased Tk 8.2cr software to spy on private computers

This is the first in the series of articles published in New Age about surveillance. This was originally published on 1 November 2014.

You can access all five of the articles from this page
Govt purchased Tk 8.2cr software to spy on private computers 
David Bergman 
The government has purchased surveillance software from a private European company which allows the country’s intelligence and law enforcement bodies to remotely intercept audio, video and written communications from privately owned computers, Wikileaks has revealed.
According to confidential records and information, leaked from the company and published last month on the Wikileaks website, the Bangladesh government has since December 2012 paid €831,060 (Tk 8.2 crore) to the German company FinFisher to purchase this ‘surveillance malware’.
The website does not state which particular Bangladesh law enforcement body or intelligence agency purchased the licenses, but the company only sells this software to government agencies.
According to the records, the main software license purchased by the Bangladesh authorities is called ‘FinSpy’.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Political Crisis 2015 - Why the UN and the West must share the blame

Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, UN Asst Sec Gen in
Bangladesh, December 2013
See also in the 'Political Crisis 2015' series:
Analysis of the deaths (updated to 5 Feb)

This is my op-ed in today's New Age looking at the responsibility of the United Nations and the West for the current political quagmire - in their failure to make sure that the Awami League government followed through with its clear commitment to them, during and after the UN envoys's visit to Bangladesh in December 2013, to hold a dialogue and elections after the 5 January 'constitutionally-required' election

UN, west must share blame for Bangladesh crisis 
by David Bergman 
In conversations that took place in the weeks before the country’s January 2014 election, United States diplomats warned Indian government officials that their support for uncontested elections in Bangladesh would store up trouble for the future.
Events unfolding now in Bangladesh suggest that — at least on this point — the United States was spot on.
Even those who think that the Awami League did nothing wrong in holding the elections without the Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s participation must acknowledge that the country is now reaping the consequences of an election in which only the Awami League and its allied parties took part, leaving over half of the country disenfranchised.
Principal responsibility for this situation lies with the Awami League — if only because it started the ball rolling by unilaterally removing the election-time caretaker-government provisions from the constitution.
But the BNP must also take its fair share of blame for failing to respond to overtures from the Awami League for a compromise.
But what about the so-called ‘international community’?
Before the election, the vast majority of the international community (composed of the United Nations, and ‘western’ countries) were all pushing hard for an agreement between the two political parties and so carry no blame for the January 5 elections.
To the extent that the international community helped Bangladesh in going ahead with the one-sided elections, it was India and Russia that must shoulder responsibility.
However, when one considers why, a year on from the elections, Bangladesh, is in such a quagmire, the United Nations and western countries are far from blameless.
Although in the days after January 5, they all issued strongly worded statements criticising the elections, these international actors quickly became content with the status quo and took no concerted action to press for new elections.
Let us first look at the United Nations.
In December 2013, the UN secretary general sent Oscar Fernandez-Taranco to Dhaka to try to facilitate dialogue between the country’s two main parties and broker some kind of political deal.
The details of the meetings are not fully known, but diplomats confirm that the Awami League negotiators told Taranco that the holding of the January 5 elections was simply a ‘constitutional necessity’ and that immediately after the poll the party would initiate talks with the BNP to discuss holding a new election. This was a commitment given not just to the United Nations but to other diplomats.
The day after the elections, the United Nations issued a statement in which the secretary general ‘regretted that the parties did not reach the kind of agreements which could have produced a peaceful, all-inclusive election outcome… [and] called on the political parties to resume meaningful dialogue and to urgently address the expectations of the people of Bangladesh for an inclusive political process.’
This is a strong statement, and presumably written with Awami League’s commitments to Taranco in mind..
Did the United Nations do anything to make this happen, to ensure that the Awami League government followed through on its commitment? According to one diplomat, some ‘desultory’ contacts between the United Nations and Bangladesh government officials did take place but ‘they certainly did not press.’
So having received a commitment from the Awami League to enter an immediate dialogue with the opposition concerning the holding of new elections, the United Nations did practically nothing to make sure it happened.
The United Nations made no further public statements calling for an election and there were no more visits from Taranco.
Next, let us look at the European Union.
A day after the United Nations posted its election statement, the EU’s high representative Catherine Ashton stated that the EU had ‘repeatedly called on all parties to create favourable conditions for transparent, inclusive and credible elections. The high representative, therefore, regrets the fact that such conditions did not materialise and that the people of Bangladesh were not given an opportunity to express fully their democratic choice.’
The EU statement asked the parties to ‘engage in genuine dialogue to agree on a mutually acceptable way forward to strengthen democratic accountability and to hold transparent, inclusive and credible elections, putting the interests of the people of Bangladesh first.’
What did they do after that? Apparently not very much. Perhaps, EU officials reminded the Bangladesh government of its commitment to hold a new election at various meetings, but nothing much else.
Significantly, the European Union had the option of considering the use of an important lever — threatening the temporary suspension of the country’s GSP facilities.
The EU’s GSP regulation states that ‘preferential arrangements… may be withdrawn temporarily’ if there has been ‘serious and systematic violation of principles laid down in any of the 27 listed United Nations and International Labour Organisation conventions.
Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, one of the listed conventions states, ‘Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity… without unreasonable restrictions… to vote… at genuine periodic elections… guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors.’
A ‘General Comment’ published by UN’s monitoring UN Human Rights Committee states that the right to vote ‘lies at the core of democratic government based on the consent of the people’ and that states must take steps to ensure that ‘citizens have an effective opportunity to enjoy’ it.
It adds that ‘Genuine periodic elections… are essential to ensure the accountability of representatives for the exercise of the legislative or executive powers vested in them’ and are required to ensure that ‘the authority of government continues to be based on the free expression of the will of electors.’
Arguably, the elections in Bangladesh on January 5, particularly in the context of a broken government commitment to hold dialogue with the opposition allowed the EU to use its lever.
There were certainly grounds for the EU to consider that the elections were in breach of this international standard; voters in 153 out of 300 constituencies had no opportunity to vote; in most of the other 147 seats, voters had to choose between candidates from the same party alliance; and there was a low turnout, in some constituencies only 10 per cent.
However, not many weeks after the election, the EU clarified that it would not use this lever, and that it was in fact ‘business as usual’ with the Bangladesh government.
Other individual government’s also made strong statements after the election — and then did practically nothing.
Australian’s government’s minister for foreign affairs Julie Bishop stated, ‘It is vital that the people of Bangladesh are able to express their democratic will and exercise real choice. The government and the opposition must take up their shared responsibility to hold a new, fully contested and transparent election as soon as possible.’
Canadian’s foreign minister John Baird ‘urge[d] all parties to reach an agreement soon that would allow the next election to be truly participatory, with results that all Bangladeshis will see as credible.’
The Federal Republic of Germany stated that ‘These elections are an extremely poor reflection of the electorate’s will’ and ‘urge[d] the Bangladesh government and all political parties to overcome their differences in the interest of the country and to work together to bring about inclusive, peaceful and credible democratic elections.’
The French government called ‘on all parties to… encourage the main political forces to resume dialogue within the framework of the country’s democratic institutions.’
And Kamalesh Sharma, representing all Commonwealth countries stated: ‘[I]t is critical that Bangladesh moves quickly to find a path forward through dialogue to a more inclusive and peaceful political process in which the will of the people can be fully expressed.’
Whatever action these countries took to pressure the government, it was very limited indeed.
One country, the United States did take more steps in trying to keep the pressure on the Awami League government. After issuing a strongly worded statement — calling on the parties to ‘engage in immediate dialogue to find a way to hold as soon as possible elections that are free, fair, peaceful, and credible, reflecting the will of the Bangladeshi people’, it specifically called for elections to take place by June 2014. And, alone amongst all the countries it kept up the pressure for some months But for sometime now the United States has been toeing the same line taken by the rest of the international community so that the recent press statement given by the United States’s new ambassador to Bangladesh, Marcia Bernicat did not even mention the word ‘elections’.
The failure of the United Nations and independent states to apply concerted pressure on the Awami League government forcing it to act on its commitment to the United Nations in holding new elections is a significant factor explaining why Bangladesh is in the current quagmire.
Why then did the international community not do more?
One reason is that it has allowed India to dictate international policy towards Bangladesh. This is most obvious in relation to the United States, which has a strategic alliance with India (where India insists on dictating policy towards Bangladesh), but it also informs the way other countries view the country.
Another reason is a concern about the involvement of the Jamaat-e-Islami in the main opposition alliance.
Whilst countries are critical of many aspects of the Awami League government, they have greater concerns about the election of a government comprising an Islamic fundamentalist party. Whilst they would have preferred that proper elections had taken place in 2013, they are uncertain about pushing for an election which could result in a BNP-Jamaat government.
Thirdly, the international community thinks it has limited levers — and the levers that they do have, to be ‘too big’. For the EU to play its GSP card, without the government succumbing to the pressure, could create a huge risk to the economy, diplomats say. And for the United Nations to play its peace keeping card — threatening the removal of Bangladesh army perks — would not necessarily result in the elections that are being sought, and would in any case be difficult for the United Nations at a time when it needs Bangladeshi army peacekeepers.
And finally, the countries had another justification for not acting — the lack of an apparent popular ‘movement’ against the elections. Though, the lack of any ‘movement’ was principally due to the BNP calling off its protest on the basis of the Awami League’s commitment to holding new elections!
Bangladesh right now is far from being the first country to have suffered due to international ‘realpolitik’. But that is certainly what has happened over the past year — and as a result, in allowing the Awami League government to simply consolidate coercive power after the elections, and in failing to press systematically for new elections, the United Nations and western countries must share significant responsibility over the country’s current crisis.
David Bergman is a contributing special correspondent at New Age.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Political Crisis 2015 - the US shift on Bangladesh

Ambassador Bernicat's press conference, Feb 2015
See also in the 'Political Crisis 2015' series:
Analysis of the deaths (updated to 5 Feb)

How much can change in a year?

The day after the 5 January 2014 elections, the US statement Marie Harf, the State Department's Deputy Spokesperson, issued a statement which made the US government's position very clear - There must be new elections. It read:
The United States is disappointed by the recent Parliamentary elections in Bangladesh. With more than half of the seats uncontested and most of the remainder offering only token opposition, the results of the just-concluded elections do not appear to credibly express the will of the Bangladeshi people. 
While it remains to be seen what form the new government will take, United States commitment to supporting the people of Bangladesh remains undiminished. To that end, we encourage the Government of Bangladesh and opposition parties to engage in immediate dialogue to find a way to hold as soon as possible elections that are free, fair, peaceful, and credible, reflecting the will of the Bangladeshi people.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Political crisis 2015 - UN gingerly puts its toe in the water

See also in the 'Political Crisis 2015' series:
Analysis of the deaths (updated to 5 Feb)

Amongst all the other major crises in the world, perhaps the UN is - finally - recognizing that Bangladesh could well join them.

On the 11th February (Wednesday, US time), Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General was asked a question about Bangladesh, and she said this
…. the [former] Assistant Secretary‑General in charge of [Political Affairs] Oscar Fernández-Taranco has been tasked by the Secretary‑General to liaise with the Government and he's doing just that.
It also emerged that Taranco was meeting that afternoon with Nisha Biswal, the US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, though it was not confirmed whether or not Bangladesh was on the agenda.

See below for the whole question and answer.

It is not much - and it is notable that the spokesperson does not mention that he is in 'liaison' with the opposition - but it is a start, and it does seem to be a development from what was said by the UN spokesperson on 5 Febuary (see end of post). Taranco, as many will remember, came to Bangladesh in December 2013 before the 5 January elections to try to work out a compromise between the parties.

The visit by UN Assist Secretary General has taken place. Taranco succeeded in getting BNP and AL leaders to meet three times - but there have been no substantive gains from this process, no deal anywhere near the horizon. However, the establishment of new lines of communication may well help in the future and could (after the 5 January elections) be helpful for getting new negotiations started between the parties. However, those hoping for any deal before 5 January 2014 - should just stop hoping!
Well, I did not think then it would take quite so long for Taranco to reappear on the scene

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Political conflict 2015 - 'Economic basis to conflict'

See also in the 'Political Crisis 2015' series:
Analysis of the deaths (updated to 5 Feb)

In December 2014, before the explosion of violence in Bangladesh, BRAC University's Institute of Governance Studies organized an international conference on 'Political Economy, Accountability and Governance'

At one of the very early sessions, the economist Professor Mushtaq Khan, based at London's SOAS gave a short response to a couple of papers looking at the relationship between governance and economic success (little relationship, they found).

Musthtaq Khan is one of the most interesting and insightful thinkers on Bangladesh (indeed someone said of Mushtaq that 'in full flow [he] is a thing of beauty"!) and I mention him now as in his short comments at an early session of the conference he referred to the economic basis to the political conflict between the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (without referring to them by name).

And what he stated was rather prescient.

A transcript of what he said is set out below, but in summary  Mushtaq raised the question (as a hypothesis) about whether political stability in Bangladesh is dependent on the country's two corrupt political parties exchanging power every five years, as one party staying in power for any longer does not 'include enough people in its patronage structures …. In our kind of political settlement ... the only guarantee of political stability … is to give [all members of the elite] a chance "to eat".' The word "eat" here is of course used as a euphemism.

Political Crisis 2015 - 'It's the election, stupid'

See also in the 'Political Crisis 2015' series:
Analysis of the deaths (updated to 5 Feb)

This article was published in New Age on the 9 February.
It's the elections, stupid 
The most proper, obvious and urgent response to the current political crisis in Bangladesh is to condemn the violence. 
First, the murderous arson apparently undertaken mostly by opposition pickets, or their hired goons, which has killed more than 50 members of the public and seriously injured many others. And then, if you are fair minded, the apparently unlawful killings by the law enforcement authorities which number about 20 opposition activists or pickets. 
But then what?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Political crisis 2015 - 'International crisis group' report

See also in the 'Political Crisis 2015' series:
Analysis of the deaths (updated to 1 Feb)

An impressive and detailed analysis of Bangladesh's political situation has just been published by the International Crisis Group. Though it is primarily based on field research undertaken in August 2014, and deals with a wide range of issues including the International Crimes Tribunal, judiciary, and the media (which I will try and come back to in later posts), it also takes a view about the current political situation and here are some extracts from the introduction and the full conclusion. The full report is available here.

My only immediate comment on the report is that in its introduction it states that 'violent Islamist factions are already reviving'. We should certainly be very fearful of this if it was the case, but I wonder if such a revival is actually happening, though the current violent instability certainly provides fertile ground.
…. Having boycotted the 2014 poll, the BNP appears bent on ousting the government via street power. With daily violence at the pre-election level, the political crisis is fast approaching the point of no return and could gravely destabilise Bangladesh unless the sides move urgently to reduce tensions. ..
With the two largest mainstream parties unwilling to work toward a new political compact that respects the rights of both opposition and victor to govern within the rule of law, extremists and criminal networks could exploit the resulting political void. Violent Islamist factions are already reviving, threatening the secular, democratic order. While jihadi forces see both parties as the main hurdle to the establishment of an Islamic order, the AL and the BNP perceive each other as the main adversary.

The AL and its leader, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajid, emphasise that the absence from parliament of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and her BNP make them political non-entities. Yet, concerned about a comeback, the government is attempting to forcibly neutralise the political opposition and stifle dissent, including by bringing corruption and other criminal cases against party leaders, among whom are Zia and her son and heir apparent, Tarique Rahman; heavy-handed use of police and paramilitary forces; and legislation and policies that undermine fundamental constitutional rights.

The BNP, which has not accepted any responsibility for the election-related violence in 2014 that left hundreds dead (and saw hundreds of Hindu homes and shops vandalised), is again attempting to oust the government by force, in alliance with the Jamaat-e-Islami, which is alleged to have committed some of the worst abuses during that period. The party retains its core supporters and seems to have successfully mobilised its activists on the streets. Yet, its sole demand – for a fresh election under a neutral caretaker – is too narrow to generate the public support it needs to over- come the disadvantage of being out of parliament, and its political capital is fading fast as it again resorts to violence.

The deep animosity and mistrust between leaders and parties were not inevitable. Despite a turbulent history, they earlier cooperated to end direct or indirect military rule and strengthen democracy, most recently during the 2007-2008 tenure of the military-backed caretaker government (CTG), when the high command tried to re- move both Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia from politics. Rather than building on that cooperation, the two leaders have resorted to non-democratic methods to undermine  each other. In power, both have used centralised authority, a politicised judiciary and predatory law enforcement agencies against legitimate opposition. …. 
The AL needs to realise that the BNP’s marginalisation from mainstream politics could encourage anti-government activism to find more radical avenues, all the more so in light of its own increasingly authoritarian bent. Equally, the BNP would do well to abandon its alliances of convenience with violent Islamist groups and seek to revive agreement on a set of basic standards for multiparty democracy. A protracted and violent political crisis would leave Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia the ultimate losers, particularly if a major breakdown of law and order were to encourage the military to intervene; though there is as yet no sign of that, history suggests it is an eventuality not to be dismissed. The opportunities for political reconciliation are fast diminishing, as political battle lines become ever more entrenched. Both parties should restrain their violent activist base and take practical steps to reduce political tensions:

 the AL government should commit to a non-repressive response to political dis- sent, rein in and ensure accountability for abuses committed by law enforcement entities, reverse measures that curb civil liberties and assertively protect minority communities against attack and dispossession of properties and businesses;

 the AL should invite the BNP, at lower levels of seniority if needed, to negotiations aimed at reviving the democratic rules of the game, including electoral reform. It should also hold mayoral elections in Dhaka, a long-overdue constitutional re- quirement that would provide opportunities to begin that dialogue; and

 the BNP should commit to non-violent political opposition; refrain from an alli- ance with the Jamaat-e-Islami that is enhancing the Islamist opposition’s street power with little political return for the BNP; and instead demonstrate willingness to engage in meaningful negotiations with the AL to end a crisis that is undermin- ing economic growth and threatening to subvert the political order. ...
In mid-2014, a retired senior military official predicted: “Unlike 2013, when we saw a steady build-up of a crisis, we could now see a sudden meltdown of law and order. It could take just one knock”.174 As the clashes that began in January 2015 escalate, Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia should recognise that without constructive gestures that risk will increase, with both sides the ultimate losers. For this reason, it is in their interests to restrain their party activists, resume dialogue and, in the government’s case, rein back the law enforcement apparatus.

Sheikh Hasina’s efforts to win popularity via economic development or war crimes trials as her government stifles dissent might seem a good way to consolidate power. But they threaten the AL’s internal coherence, domestic stability and potentially the government’s future. A significant part of the electorate will continue to oppose the AL, and attempts to forcibly suppress opposition would exacerbate social and politi- cal divisions. Sheikh Hasina should also know that if she loses the next election, the tools her government uses against political opponents today (and that were put in place by prior BNP administrations) could be used against her party.175

The BNP’s many supporters again are being swayed by calls for hartals; another prolonged period of street clashes could either end, as the earlier one, with forceful suppression of protests, or result in a complete breakdown of law and order, possibly sparking military intervention. Neither outcome would help the BNP to revive its for- tunes. The party should instead reopen dialogue with the government if it is to regain the support of citizens suffering economically from the ongoing shutdown and con- cerned about growing political instability.

Both parties should urgently search for ways out of the impasse. Since some BNP leaders have appeared open to considering alternatives to the caretaker model,176 the government could revive its proposal for an all-party cabinet to oversee elections, with limited policy- and appointment-making powers and a strong election commis- sion. This would at the least present an opportunity to begin long-overdue negotia- tions for defusing political tensions. Much depends, however, on the willingness of both leaders to reach out to each other, instead of continuing to rely on undemocratic forces, including the security establishment, to quash dissent, or on violent street protests and dubious alliances with those on extremist fringes.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Political crisis 2015 - Law enforcement 'unlawful killings'

See also in the 'Political Crisis 2015' series:
Analysis of the deaths (updated to 1 Feb)

This page provide more details on alleged 'unlawful killings' by the police since 5 January which appear to be directly connected with the political crisis.

Twenty such deaths have been identified from news reports (as of 7 Feb, 2014). 10 of the men killed are from the BNP; 7 are from the Jamaat and 3 are so far unidentified.

[To see the full list of deaths, including details of the over 40 deaths claimed to be the result of opposition pickets, click here]

The police provide six different scenarios for these 20 'police' deaths

- that 8 men were killed when the police came under attack

- that 4 men were killed when, having been arrested by the police, they were taken to a place to recover arms or identify other alleged associates, and in a course of a shoot out with that persons associate's that person is killed.

- that 4 men were killed in the course of a protest (in the first few days of the political unrest)

- that 2 men died when vehicle ran them over when men were throwing bombs (police claim they were not involved)

- that 1 man died when trying to escape police custody

- that 1 man died, police claim no responsibility, but family claim that he was in police custody.

All these deaths are set out below.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Political crisis 2015 - No clean hands

See also in the 'Political Crisis 2015' series:
Analysis of the deaths (updated to 1 Feb)

There is only one truth when its comes to violent killings and Bangladesh politics. None of the country's two main political parties have clean hands.

Lets first consider the violence since 5January 2015.

By just about any definition of the crime,  the violence perpetrated by men throwing petrol bombs at vehicles around the country amounts not only to homicide but to the offence of terrorism.

It is violent conduct against a civilian population and seeks to influence the policy of a government – in this case to get it to hold elections. However legitimate many in the country may feel this demand to be, this does not excuse or justify the killings.

So Sheikh Hasina, and other members of her government are right when they decry as 'terrorism' the recent deaths of over 30 members of the public  – as indeed they had done about a similar number of deaths a year ago during the previous opposition protests before the 5 January 2014 election.