According to a report by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), Bangladesh’s voting record at the Human Rights Council (HRC) contradicts the country’s pledge and stance against human rights violations.
The report said that Bangladesh either abstained from voting or voted against multiple resolutions that drew attention to the deteriorating human rights situations and matters of technical assistance in Belarus, Burundi, Ukraine, Syria, Iran, Sudan and Sri Lanka.
The CHRI report, titled “The Commonwealth at the Human Rights Council: A decade of voting (2006-2016),” was launched in Geneva on June 19.
Bangladesh’s abstention on a torture resolution is not consistent with their Constitution or CAT
The report considers the voting patterns of Commonwealth members at the HRC and provides a basis to determine whether their voting behaviour is consistent with HRC pledges, repeated commitments to Commonwealth values, votes of other Commonwealth countries, and their own past votes.
Bangladesh served at the Human Rights Council (HRC) from June 2006 to June 2012 and is currently serving a term that began in January 2015 and ends in December 2017.
The voting pattern of Bangladesh
The report found that Bangladesh abstained from voting on six resolutions concerning religious discrimination, peaceful protest, drones, torture, and transitional justice.
Furthermore, the country was against three resolutions concerning sexual orientation, gender identity and the death penalty.
Bangladesh joined the consensus to support a decision that said death penalty verdicts had to be reported to the secretary general of the HRC, but the country subsequently voted against a resolution that sought to abolish the death penalty altogether.
In 2011, Bangladesh joined the consensus to support a decision on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests. A year later, the country maintained the same position while joining the consensus to support a resolution on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests.
However, in 2016, Bangladesh abstained from voting on a resolution concerning the exact same issue.
Regarding issues of religious discrimination, Bangladesh joined the consensus to support a resolution in 2007, but then abstained from voting on a resolution concerning the matter.
In 2009, the country again abstained from voting on a resolution concerning discrimination based on religion.
Bangladesh also abstained from voting on a resolution concerning the use of remotely piloted aircraft or armed drones while countering terrorism in 2015. The resolution was sponsored by Pakistan.
In addition, the report said that Bangladesh voted against resolutions concerning protection from violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in 2011 and in 2015.
In 2007, Bangladesh once again joined the consensus, this time regarding a statement on the twentieth anniversary of the Convention against torture, only to abstain from voting on a resolution concerning torture and the responsibility of medical personnel in 2009.
The country has also joined the consensus to support resolutions regarding torture and the role and responsibility of judges, torture and the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, and torture while in police custody in 2010, 2011 and 2016 respectively.
Bangladesh has also joined the consensus to support resolutions on transitional justice in every year that it was in the HRC from 2007, but the country abstained from voting on a resolution concerning the issue in 2016.
Bangladesh abstained from voting on twenty resolutions concerning accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, Syria, North Korea, Iran, and Sudan. It also voted against seven resolutions concerning human rights crisis in Belarus, North Korea, Syria, Burundi, and Ukraine.
The report said that during its candidacy for a second HRC term, Bangladesh stated that the country's constitution provides fundamental rights that guarantee, inter alia, equality before law and equal protection of law, protection of life and liberty and prohibition from discriminatory treatment. It said that discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, caste or sex is prohibited.
However, the country voted against two Sexual orientation and gender identity resolutions. Same-sex conduct is criminalised in Bangladesh and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. It moreover rejected Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations to repeal the law twice.
During its HRC candidacy, Bangladesh stated that the “protection of life and liberty” is guaranteed by the Constitution and that Bangladesh is party to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).
“Bangladesh’s abstention on a torture resolution is not consistent with their Constitution or CAT,” the report observed.
After voting against a resolution on the death penalty, Bangladesh noted that “a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, with a view to its abolition, required a comprehensive appraisal of the international justice system that had not been undertaken.”
During the UPR II, Bangladesh claimed that it used the death penalty only as exemplary punishment for heinous crimes and maintains an extremely low rate of executions.
In the same UPR, Amnesty International reported that “over 1,000 people are on death row” and that “very few are likely to be pardoned or have their death sentence commuted.”
On the issue of religious discrimination, Bangladesh abstained from voting, and stated that it could not vote in favour as the ongoing international intolerance of Islam had not been satisfactorily addressed.