WASHINGTON/UNITED NATIONS - The United States and the United Nations have expressed concern over the ongoing violence in Bangladesh in which over 40 people have been killed, and urged the country’s citizens to protest peacefully.

“While engaging in a peaceful protest is a fundamental democratic right, we believe violence is never the answer. We encourage all Bangladeshis to peacefully express their views, and we welcome peaceful efforts by the government of Bangladesh to help calm the situation,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters at the daily press briefing. “We are saddened by the loss of life during protests across Bangladesh,” Ventrell said in response to a question.

At UN Headquarters in New York, a spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that he was monitoring the situation in Bangladesh with concern and was saddened by the loss of life. “While recognising that the war crime tribunal is a national process, the Secretary-General calls on all concerned to act with respect for the rule of law, to stop the violence and to express their views peacefully. Meanwhile, the Human Rights Watch, a New York-Based watchdog, said that the Bangladeshi government and the Jamaat-e-Islaami party need to act urgently to ensure that security forces and party supporters do not engage in further acts of violence. The violence broke out on February 28 after the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), a specially constituted court set up to prosecute those responsible for atrocities committed during the country’s 1971 war, convicted the vice-president of the Jamaat party, Delwar Hossain Sayedee, of war crimes and sentenced him to death.

“The leadership of Jamaat should immediately issue public statements to its followers to stop these violent, unacceptable attacks against law enforcement officers and those who support the verdicts of the war crimes trials,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.