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Dhaka Tribune

UPR review to pose tough questions for Dhaka

Update : 29 Jul 2017, 04:31 PM
Foreign Minister Dipu Moni and her Deputy Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque are set to defend Bangladesh at a Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) today and are set to face a number of tough questions. The website of the Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights in Geneva said that Netherlands, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Germany, Mexico, Ireland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Liechtenstein, Norway and Montenegro submitted questions in advance for the review. Most of the queries are related to extrajudicial killings, child labour, women’s rights, ombudsman for children, right to information act, implementation of the CHT accord, International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), pollution in Hazaribagh tanneries, Rohingya refugees, violent acts against journalists and disappearances by law enforcement agencies. Extrajudicial killings “Extrajudicial killings, torture and impunity. What is the Government doing to put an end to extrajudicial killings, torture and other forms of ill-treatment perpetrated by law enforcement agencies?” asked Netherlands. The United Kingdom put forward a question on “Does the government of Bangladesh have any plans to sign or ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT)?” However, the Bangladesh government, in its national report to the UNHRC, has billed the concerns by various human rights organisations about “the sharp rise in extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances” as merely propaganda and pointed out that the terms are not defined in Bangladesh’s constitution. It also opposed the claims of the organisations that violations of human rights are pervasive in the country. However, UPR stakeholders in the country have accused law enforcement agencies of committing extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances across the country. According to Odhikar, a total of 435 people were killed between 2009-2012. RAB alone allegedly killed 192 people. Rights group, Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) claimed that in 2012 alone, a total of 91 people were killed by law enforcement agencies. Of them, 79 were killed without being arrested and the rest whilst in police custody. ICT Czech Republic questioned, “What measures will be taken to ensure fair trials to all defendants before the recently established Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal for crimes against humanity during the Liberation War of 1971?” Regarding the questions raised about the ICT, Bangladesh said in its report, that the war crimes tribunal was established respecting the “long cherished aspirations of citizens of Bangladesh.” It also claimed that the trials are being conducted in “independent and open” tribunals allowing media and independent observers to witness the proceedings to ensure “international standard” fairness. Rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW), alleged in a recent report that the procedures of the tribunal, formed to try perpetrators of crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War, failed to meet “international fair trial standards”. Meanwhile, rights watchdog Amnesty International, pointed out that the first tribunal formed in 2009 and the second tribunal in 2012 have failed to bring to trial “all perpetrators of war crimes irrespective of their political affiliations” It also recommended that the Bangladesh government should disregard which party the perpetrators supported or their political affiliations during 1971. CHT Norway asked, “Which steps will the Government of Bangladesh take to investigate credible reports of increasing violence against women in the CHT, especially regarding sexual assaults? What is being done in order to put an end to such violent acts?” The GoB report mentioned that they have included an article in the 15th constitutional amendment as a step towards fulfilling the “responsibility to protect and develop the unique culture of the tribal and ethnic communities“. Rights organisations have stressed the need for constitutional recognition of indigenous peoples and pointed out that “declaring indigenous peoples do not exist in the country and declaring all citizens as Bengalis” undermines the basic rights of ethnic minority peoples who hold non-Bengali identities. The national report also claimed that to establish peace in the CHT region, the government so far fulfilled 48 clauses out of 72, of the accord. However, HR forums contested the claim saying that it had progressed little in implementation and expressed concern over rights violations in CHT, including killings, torture, religious persecution, sexual violence against indigenous women and children and land dispossession. Women Rights Netherlands also questioned about violence against women asking to be briefed on the course of action the government plans to take. The national report claimed that a central cell was operating in the country to ensure prevention of such violence. Whilst stakeholders pointed out that inadequate enforcement of law, social stereotypes, stigma, lack of witness’ and victim protection were continuing to violence. They also said that crimes including domestic violence, dowry related violence, rape, killings, acid attacks, fatwa, stalking and sexual harassment are on a rise. Children rights Montenegro enquired about measures taken to stop child labour. The Human Rights Forum of Bangladesh pointed out that children were still being employed in hazardous conditions. However, the GoB claimed that it had adopted the National Children Policy 2011 and National Child Labour Elimination Policy 2011 with a view to eliminate child labour particularly from hazardous work. Norway also wanted to know the timeframe of the establishment of an Ombudsman for children as claimed by Bangladesh in its report and urged details about its function and resource allocation.
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