Bangladesh’s constitution provides for a parliamentary form of government that consolidates most power in the Office of the Prime Minister. In a December 2018 parliamentary election, Sheikh Hasina and her Awami League party won a third consecutive five-year term that kept her in office as prime minister. This election was not considered free and fair by observers due to reported irregularities, including ballot box stuffing and intimidation of opposition polling agents and voters.
The security forces encompassing the national police, border guards, and counterterrorism units such as the Rapid Action Battalion, maintain internal and border security. The military has some domestic security responsibilities. The security forces report to the Ministry of Home Affairs, and the military reports to the Ministry of Defence. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were reports members of the security forces committed numerous abuses.
Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; forced disappearance; torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrests or detentions; political prisoners or detainees; transnational repression against individuals in another country; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; punishment of family members for offenses allegedly committed by a relative; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence or threats of violence against journalists, unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists, censorship, and enforcement of or threat to enforce criminal libel laws to limit expression; serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding, or operation of nongovernmental organizations and civil society organizations; restrictions on refugees’ freedom of movement; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; serious government corruption; serious government restrictions on or harassment of domestic and international human rights organizations; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence, including domestic and intimate partner violence, sexual violence, workplace violence, child, early, and forced marriage, and other forms of such violence; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of ethnic minority groups or Indigenous people; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults; significant restrictions on independent trade unions and workers’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining; and existence of the worst forms of child labor.
There were numerous reports of widespread impunity for security force abuses and corruption. The government took few measures to identify, investigate, prosecute, and punish officials or security force members who committed human rights abuses or engaged in corruption.