By Arul Louis,
United Nations : Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is calling on sides in Bangladesh to maintain calm in the aftermath of the jailing of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, who was convicted of embezzlement, and the violent protests that have ensued.
“We are just monitoring what the latest developments regarding this verdict and we expect that we will say something more once we have evaluated the situation,” Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesperson for Guterres, said on Thursday answering a reporter’s question about the verdict.
“It is too early to judge what impact this will have (on elections),” he added. “But we do continue to call for an inclusive and democratic process in the country.”
“We call on sides to maintain calm,” he said.
A court found Zia, the chairperson of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), guilty of embezzling $252,000 in foreign donations meant for the Zia Orphanage Trust and sentenced her on Thursday to a five-year prison term.
Her son Tarique Rahman and four others were also convicted in the case and given ten years in prison.
Clashes were reported between security forces and her supporters who had defied security measures to escort the car taking Zia to court.
In Dhaka and in other places police used teargas and rubber bullets against the protesters, according to reports.
Bangladesh is the second largest contributor of personnel to UN peacekeeping operations sending 7,246 troops and police.
Haq was asked by a reporter if given reports of the security forces acting against protesters in Bangladesh the UN was vetting its personnel in peacekeeping operations to make sure if they were not involved in human rights abuses at home.
In his reply Haq did not specifically mention Bangladesh, but said, “All peacekeepers are vetted to make sure that they have not engaged in any practices that involve violation of the human rights and we go through that on a country-by-country basis.”
“We raise all concerns with any particular member of incoming troops with the troop-contributing country to make sure that no one is deployed who does not meet out standards,” he added.
(Arul Louis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)