The British Foreign Office has released its report on Bangladesh chronicling the pre-and post-parliamentary elections events.
The 20-Party alliance led by the BNP objected to the “constitutionally valid” electoral arrangements, and did not contest the election due to their concerns that the election would not be free and fair.
Half of parliamentary seats were uncontested, and the Awami League won a second successive term.
The election day was marked by violence as 21 deaths were reported, and over 100 school-based polling centres burnt down.
“We repeatedly condemned all forms of violence and encouraged political parties to work together,” the report said.
On Jan 6, the then Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister for human rights Syeda Warsi deplored acts of intimidation and unlawful violence from all parties.
She urged all of Bangladesh’s political parties to work together to address political accountability.
“We also raised our concerns with both the government and opposition parties privately.”
Warsi raised concerns with visiting Bangladeshi ministers, as did former Minister of State for International Development, Alan Duncan, and former Parliamentary Under-Secretary for State for International Development, Lynne Featherstone, during visits to Bangladesh.
All three ministers urged political parties to work together to strengthen democratic accountability, and to build wider confidence in future elections, the report said.
After the elections, it added, the BNP committed to peaceful protest, although political tension at the end of the year led to the re-emergence of widespread political violence.
There were significantly fewer enforced general strikes and transport blockades in 2014 and, overall, the country experienced a period of relative calm.
However, there has been no political dialogue between the country’s two largest parties: the BNP and Awami League, the British government observed in the report.
It cited reports by the NGOs that impunity of all Bangladesh’s law-enforcing agencies continued to be a serious problem.
NGOs condemned a post-election spike in numbers of reported extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances allegedly carried out by law enforcers.
Allegations of involvement by the Rapid Action Battalion in the death of seven men in Narayanganj drew domestic and international criticism.
Warsi called for prompt, transparent and impartial investigations when she met the Bangladesh High Commissioner in London in May last year.
“As yet, none of the three investigations established to find those guilty have delivered findings, and no charges have been brought.”
The government has proposed revisions to the Foreign Donations Act pending parliamentary approval and a new broadcast policy.
The report says some using digital media to criticise the government have been
detained under the Information Communications Technology Act.
This has generated concerns about civil society space, media freedoms, and government power to suppress criticism or dissent.
The government has also restored parliament’s authority to impeach judges, which, depending on how it is implemented, could compromise the independence of the judiciary, the report observed.
Prime Minister David Cameron met Prime Minster Sheikh Hasina on July 22 and noted their ‘disappointment over the conduct of the election”.
“Both agreed on the importance of an open society and political systems in which democratic political participation and media freedoms are respected,” according to the report.