'Everyone try to establish ties with the ruling party and once that connection is established, justice gets delayed and eventually denied'
Right activists and members of the civil society expressed apprehension over a fair trial into the murder investigation of Buet student Abrar Fahad and further doubt convictions against the perpetrators.
Reviewing Bangladesh's progress after accepting recommendations from the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), noted speakers made the remarks while commenting over the status of freedom of expression and culture of impunity in the country's judiciary.
Human Rights Forum Bangladesh (HRFB) organized a national seminar on 'One Year after UPR 2018: Where Are We?' at the CIRDAP Auditorium on Tuesday.
Executive Director of Ain-o-Salish Kendra Sheepa Hafiza said that the country's justice system is failing due to political interference.
“Everyone try to establish ties with the ruling party and once that connection is established, justice gets delayed and eventually denied,” she observed.
Raising concerns over a culture of impunity that exists in the country particularly in cases having political connection, she said: “There might be a trial in Abrar murder case, however, we cannot rely with full confidence as they have a powerful political lineage.”
Human Rights Expert Tahmina Rahman described the murder of Abrar as an attempt to squeeze free speech. She added that since 1971, more than 151 people were killed in the public universities and none of them had completed trial yet.
Director General-UN of Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nahida Sobhan, however, commended the government's prompt steps following the murder of Abrar Fahad and said everyone should accept what the government has done in such a short period after recognizing the horrific incident.
Little progress in a year
Bangladesh participated in the UN organized UPR in May, 2018, where some 105 countries made 251 recommendations for Bangladesh and among them some 178 were accepted and 73 were placed in the table of noted.
According to the participants in the forum, except for making progress in reducing the extreme poor, Bangladesh has not even made near to expected progress during the time.
Senior advocate of the Bangladesh Supreme Court, Zahirul Islam Khan Panna said that there is widespread lawlessness, chaos and lack of correspondence everywhere in our political culture. He added by saying that if considerable space is not created to flourish healthy political practices, evil and crooked political agents will fill in the gaps.
Barrister Sara Hossain, executive director of Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), said there has been continuous violation of human rights and abuse against people in the country, nonetheless, the government remains persistent in denying such cases. Government should have the courage to say ‘Yes’, accept responsibility and address the issue appropriately.
The government said that extrajudicial killings and incidents of disappearance are not acknowledged in the Bangladeshi laws. The government should clear its stance in this regard, she reiterates.
Human Rights Forum of Bangladesh said following the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a unique process which involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States, steps to formulating Digital Security Act-2018 (DSA), and Sarkari Chakori Ain-2018’ gave some negative impression on establishing human rights and put a stop on rampant corruption.
Tahmina Rahman said after the DSA was passed, some 210 cases were filed under the act apparently barring freedom of expression and openness. At the same time, another act, Public Service Act 2018 was formulated, where it stipulates that to arrest an on-duty government official permission would be needed.
Executive Director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Dr Iftekharuzzaman said the article that imposed indemnity on arresting public servant will hinder the process of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
NHRCB in question
Executive Director of TIB Iftekharuzzaman raised questions on the process of appointing the chairman of the National Human Right Commission Bangladesh, saying earlier the process was manipulated as one of the retired government officials was made chairman.
Sheepa Hafiza said NHRCB was supposed to be the last resort of advocating human rights in the country, but it has failed to stand up to its expectation even after ten years of its inception.
The commission should have effective dialogue with the civil society and should reach out to the people which will eventually create a mechanism for accountability, and transparency.
Hiranmaya Barai, secretary of NHRCB said although they are not in a strong position they will achieve their goal slowly.
Shaheen Anam, executive director of Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) said it is disappointing that the independent role of the law enforcing and monitoring organizations are decreasing day by day.
The primary reason for the continued spate of killings is the culture of impunity in the country. Despite so many incidents, public outcry and serious criticism at home and abroad, there has been little progress in bringing the perpetrators to justice.
But more importantly, the activists of the ruling party have been enjoying a free ride in recent years. It has contributed to the serious deterioration of law and order in the country.