UN condemns Bangladesh election ‘reprisals’

Supporters of Bangladesh Awami League march along a street as they take part in a rally ahead of the December 30 general election vote, in Dhaka on December 27, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 04 January 2019
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UN condemns Bangladesh election ‘reprisals’

  • At least 17 people died in election-related violence up to polling day
  • The opposition has said there was widespread voter intimidation and fraud

DHAKA: The United Nations said Friday that worrying cases of violence and intimidation have been reported in Bangladesh since the country’s deadly election campaign.
A woman allegedly gang-raped for voting for an opposition party is among the worst of a series of attacks reported by local media since Sunday’s election which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina won by a landslide.
“We are concerned about violence and alleged human rights violations in Bangladesh before, during and after the recent elections,” said Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the UN human rights commissioner in Geneva.
“There are worrying indications that reprisals have continued to take place, notably against the political opposition, including physical attacks and ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests, harassment, disappearances and filing of criminal cases.
“Reports suggest that violent attacks and intimidation, including against minorities, have been disproportionately carried out by ruling party activists, at times with the complicity or involvement of law enforcement officers,” said the UN spokeswoman.
The UN called on Bangladesh authorities “to carry out prompt, independent, impartial and effective investigations” into the election-related violence as well as attacks and threats made to journalists.
The spokeswoman said at least two journalists have been arrested under Bangladesh’s Digital Security Act “in relation to their reporting on the election.”
At least 17 people died in election-related violence up to polling day. The opposition has said there was widespread voter intimidation and fraud.
On election night, a mother of four in the southern district of Noakhali was allegedly raped by more than 10 followers of the ruling Awami League because she voted for the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, media reports said.
Her family has filed a police complaint but the Awami League denied any link to the case.


UK PM Theresa May loses historic Brexit vote

Updated 37 min 55 sec ago
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UK PM Theresa May loses historic Brexit vote

  • Defeat now raises the question about whether she will try again, is removed from office, delays Brexit -- or if Brexit even happens at all
  • Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tables a motion of no confidence in May's government

LONDON: Britain’s parliament on Tuesday resoundingly rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, triggering a no-confidence vote in her government and plunging its plans to leave the EU into further chaos.
MPs voted 432 to 202 against May’s plan for taking Britain out of the European Union, the biggest parliamentary defeat for a government in modern British political history.
With a deal that took nearly two years to craft in tatters and her government’s future hanging in the balance, EU leaders sounded a note of exasperation, urging Britain to come out and say what it actually wants.
“If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?” EU president Donald Tusk tweeted.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, warned of a heightened risk of a “no deal” Brexit — an outcome that could disrupt trade, slow down the UK economy, and wreak havoc on the financial markets.
The government of Ireland — the only EU member state with a land border with Britain — said it would now intensify preparations to cope with a “disorderly Brexit.”
And German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, representing the EU’s most dominant economy and leading political voice, called the vote “a bitter day for Europe.”
Most lawmakers have always opposed Brexit, as have some leading members of the government, creating a contradiction that has been tearing apart Britain ever since a June 2016 referendum began its divorce from the other 27 EU states.
Moments after Tuesday’s outcome, which was met with huge cheers by hundreds of anti-Brexit campaigners who watched the vote on big screens, opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn submitted a motion of no-confidence in May’s government, calling her defeat “catastrophic.”
The vote is expected on Wednesday at 1900 GMT.
May sought to strike a conciliatory tone, telling MPs they had the right to challenge her leadership and promising to hold more talks to salvage a workable solution by the rapidly approaching March 29 Brexit deadline.
She promised to hold discussions with MPs from across parliament to identify ideas “that are genuinely negotiable and have sufficient support in this House.”
“If these meetings yield such ideas, the government will then explore them with the European Union.”
Downing Street said May will then return to parliament with a new Brexit proposal on Monday.
With their nation again in turmoil, noisy supporters and opponents of Brexit, rallied outside the ancient parliament building in London.
“It could end up being the day that will lead to us leaving with no deal!” said 25-year-old Simon Fisher, who backs a swift and sharp break with the EU.
A much larger rally nearby in support of a second referendum turned Parliament Square, dotted with statues of past UK leaders, into a sea of EU flags.
Economists said the scale of May’s defeat — on the upper end of most predictions — now also put pressure on Brussels to make more meaningful compromises.
The pound surged higher against the dollar and euro after the vote, seemingly buoyed by May’s promise to seek a compromise with her opponents.
“Markets project beliefs and the underlying belief is that nobody’s going to be committing economic suicide,” BK Asset Management’s Boris Schlossberg said.
But businesses voiced alarm about the outcome, which does nothing to resolve uncertainty that has been dampening the UK investment climate for months.
“Financial stability must not be jeopardized in a game of high-stakes political poker,” warned Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the City of London Corporation, the body governing the British capital’s massive financial district.
May made it her mission to carry out the wishes of voters after she became prime minister a month after the referendum, putting aside her own initial misgivings and stating repeatedly that “Brexit means Brexit.”
But her deal raised concern that Britain could end up locked in an unfavorable trading relationship with the EU.
Criticism of the deal was focused on an arrangement to keep open the border with Ireland by aligning Britain with some EU trade rules, if and until London and Brussels sign a new economic partnership — a tortuous process that could take several years.
Arlene Foster, head of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party upon which May relies for her parliamentary majority, said May needed to win binding concessions from Brussels to secure her vote.
“Reassurances whether in the form of letters or warm words, will not be enough,” said Foster.
“The prime minister must now go back to the European Union and seek fundamental change to the Withdrawal Agreement.”
Speculation is growing on both sides of the Channel that May could ask to delay Britain’s divorce from the EU after almost half a century of membership.
But a diplomatic source told AFP any extension would not be possible beyond June 30, when the new European Parliament will be formed.