- Govt initiatives to implement UN recommendations praised
- Since 2018, 7 int’l organisations visit Bangladesh 10 times to asses HR situation
- Bangladesh 7th in world in women’s political empowerment
- Govt has no censorship system for media
Around 90 percent of the United Nations (UN) member states have praised the present human rights situation in Bangladesh.
The UN member states expressed their satisfaction at the fourth Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Bangladesh’s human rights situation conducted at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on November 13.
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A high-powered government delegation led by Law Minister Anisul Huq represented the Government of Bangladesh in the review and presented the country’s progress in implementing previous recommendations.
In the meeting, Bangladesh presented a report on the extent to which the recommendations of the previous meeting have been reflected. After the meeting, the law minister said 90 percent of the countries praised the initiatives the government took to implement the recommendations of the previous UPR.
Mentionable, human rights situation of all the 193 UN member states has been assessed three times so far. The human rights situation of 14 countries is being reassessed for the fourth time in this month’s UNHRC session from November 6 to November 17.
These three reports are the national report of Bangladesh submitted in accordance with the Human Rights Council resolution; the compilation of data prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; and the summary of stakeholder views on Bangladesh.
Observations and recommendations of UN and stakeholders’ reports
The UN and stakeholders’ reports have recommended making the National Human Rights Commission more independent and increasing its allocation.
The UN report observed that there are weaknesses in the current draft of the Anti-Discrimination Act that addresses caste, colour, religion, gender, economic status, and other issues.
The UN report calls for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty as punishment and for the reduction of the death penalty.
Bangladesh’s report on the HR situation
In the report Bangladesh submitted to the UNHRC meeting, it has been mentioned that since the third UPR in 2018, seven international organizations visited Bangladesh a total of 10 times, which is the highest among UN member states.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) visited Bangladesh in 2022 at the invitation of Bangladesh. In addition, several meetings were held with the Office of the UNHCHR on the Digital Security Act.
Since 2018, the government has increased the allocation of the National Human Rights Commission by 99 percent. The organisation has adopted a third five-year strategic plan.
The report said Bangladesh is determined to protect and establish the rights of women, children, and minorities. A draft Anti-Discrimination Act was tabled in Parliament in 2022 and is currently under examination.
Bangladesh ranks seventh in the world in terms of women’s political empowerment and first in South Asia in ensuring gender equality, the report mentioned. To provide greater protection to children, the Children Act 2013 was amended in 2018, keeping the provision of a minimum of four months of maternity leave mandatory. A law is in process to protect abandoned children.
Bangladesh considers the death penalty appropriate as punishment for heinous crimes. However, the death penalty is gradually declining in Bangladesh and is being replaced by fines and life imprisonment.
The Constitution of Bangladesh fully guarantees freedom of speech under Article 39. Bangladesh’s government has no censorship system for print and electronic media. The vague Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act 2006 was repealed and replaced by more specific provisions in the Digital Security Act 2018.
The Digital Security Act was enacted to fight cybercrime, not to curtail freedom of speech or harass the media, said the report.
All types of abduction and kidnapping offenses are covered under Sections 363 to 369 of the Penal Code. This Act applies equally to all law enforcement agencies.
Bangladesh’s HR report also mentioned that since 2015, 1692 criminal cases have been filed against personnel of law enforcement agencies. In those cases, 8,488 policemen were served with major punishment so far.
Citing examples, the report said 25 RAB officials, including three top officials, were found guilty of their involvement in the kidnapping and killing of seven people in Narayanganj. Among them, 14 have been sentenced to death. Two police officials were sentenced to death and six officials were sentenced to life imprisonment for the killing of Rashed Khan Sinha at a check post in 2022.
The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances sent a list of 76 victims of enforced disappearance. Two meetings were also held in this regard in 2022 and 2023. Nine of them have been found while two foreign nationals have no judicial or police record of disappearance. Relatives of missing persons in 10 cases have not assisted in the investigation, 27 cases are under investigation, and 28 are absconding as they have different cases against them including murder.
The number of ethnic minorities in Bangladesh is about 18 lakh, which is 1 percent of the total population. Rangamati Medical College has a 25 percent quota for admission for ethnic minorities and other public universities have a 5 percent quota.
Besides, some ethnic minorities (Chakma, Marma, Garo, and Sadri) are getting free textbooks in their mother tongue in pre-primary education.
UK, US also expressed satisfaction: Law minister
Emerging out of the UPR, Law Minister Anisul Huq at a virtual briefing said 90 percent of countries praised and constructively criticized the human rights situation. The United States and the United Kingdom also expressed satisfaction with the situation in Bangladesh but emphasized fair elections.
The UNHRC did not raise any questions after clarifying the government’s stand on BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia’s treatment, he said, adding that after clearing the position on the prevention of disappearances and murders, the council did not question it.
The issue of dialogue between political parties was not discussed in the meeting, he said.
In conclusion, it can be said that Bangladesh’s government is committed to human rights. The steps taken by the government for the continuous development of the human rights situation will place Bangladesh in the seat of dignity in the court of the world.