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GENEVA: UN experts on Wednesday urged Bangladesh to carry out major human rights reforms to reverse “repressive trends” following controversial elections that were boycotted by the opposition.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was sworn in for a fifth term on January 11. Her ruling Awami League party won nearly three-quarters of elected seats in parliament, with allied parties and friendly independent candidates making up nearly all the remainder.

Hasina has presided over breakneck economic growth in a country once beset by grinding poverty, but her government has been accused of rampant human rights abuses and a ruthless crackdown on dissent.

The UN experts said they were “alarmed” at reports of “widespread attacks, harassment and intimidation of civil society, human rights defenders, journalists and political activists, which marred the recent elections”.

The experts included the special rapporteurs on freedom of assembly, on the independence of judges, on human rights defenders and on freedom of opinion.

Special rapporteurs are unpaid experts mandated by the UN Human Rights Council as part of its fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. They are independent and do not speak for the United Nations.

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