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EU asks parties to consider early elections

Asks BNP to sever ties with Jamaat-Hefazat

Staff Correspondent

The European Union on Thursday called on the government and opposition to consider early elections to ‘give the Bangladeshi people a chance to express their democratic choice in a representative way’.
In a resolution adopted on the ‘recent elections’ in Bangladesh, the EU also urged the Bangladesh Nationalist Party to ‘unequivocally distance itself from Jamaat-e-Islami and Hafezat-e-Islam’.
The 11 point resolution adopted at a sitting of the European parliament on January 16 strongly condemned the violence leading up to and during the national elections on January 5. It called on the government to initiate ‘prompt, independent and transparent investigations’ into the violence and bring the perpetrators, including the government’s security forces, to justice.
The resolutions were critical of the government for ‘repressive methods used by the security forces, including indiscriminate firing with live ammunition and torture in custody,’ and also urged them to release opposition politicians subjected to ‘arbitrary arrests.’ In another resolution it asked the government to revise the Information Technology Act and Anti-Terrorism Act because it can lead to ‘arbitrary criminalisation of citizens.’
The resolutions expressed concern over the violence against
ethnic and religious minorities and urged that parties engaged in terrorist acts be banned. In the preface to the resolutions, the parliament identified Jamaat and Hefazat as the main instigators of violence and mentioned that BNP ‘continues to cooperate’ with them.
The EU acknowledged that the International Crimes Tribunal ‘has played an important role in providing redress and closure for victims’, despite its ‘considerable shortcomings’. It however was critical of the number of people on death row as a result of the ICT verdicts and BDR mutiny trial, and urged the government and parliament to abolish death penalty and commute the sentences.
The EU parliament during the discussion on Thursday brought the issue of low voters turnout and widespread violence during the polls, the failure of diplomatic efforts to make the two sides in Bangladesh come to a compromise and the attack on minorities as a result of the elections and ICT trials.
It also mentioned that the diplomatic community in Dhaka estimated voters turnout during the elections to be around 20 per cent, as opposed to the government’s claim of around 40 per cent. 

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