DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — A global human rights group on Friday urged Bangladesh to order an independent investigation into the growing number of cases where opposition members and activists have disappeared.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch expressed concern as local rights group Ain-O-Salish Kendra said at least 22 people have disappeared this year. Another Dhaka-based group, Odhikar, says more than 50 people have disappeared since 2010.
Security agencies including the elite anti-crime force Rapid Action Battalion have been blamed for many disappearances, but the agencies deny the allegations.
Bangladesh's opposition parties enforced three days of nationwide general strike this week to protest the latest disappearance: that of opposition official Elias Ali, who went missing April 17, along with his driver.
Ali's car was recovered later after residents found it abandoned on a street in the capital, Dhaka.
The main Bangladesh Nationalist Party led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia has given the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina a Saturday deadline to find Ali, otherwise, it would enforce "tougher" anti-government protests.
The opposition party and its 17 other allies have blamed the government and security agencies for Ali's disappearance, but the government rejected the allegation and sought the opposition's cooperation to find him.
"The rise in disappearances, particularly of opposition members and activists, requires a credible and independent investigation," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.