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UK: Overall human rights situation in Bangladesh cause for concern

  • Published at 07:43 pm November 20th, 2020

Bangladesh among 30 human rights priority countries, according to a British ministerial statement

The United Kingdom government has expressed concern over the overall human rights situation in Bangladesh, according to a ministerial statement by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The statement, issued on Friday, that covered the period from January to June this year, placed Bangladesh in the group of 30 human rights priority countries.  

“Focusing on particular countries allows us to exert influence over the long term, and thus to achieve maximum impact, encouraging governments to meet their international human rights obligations,” said the statement.

However, it said: “Our human rights work goes beyond these 30 countries. We prioritise issues of concern, but also seek to reflect positive developments where there has been progress.

“In Bangladesh, the overall human rights situation continued to be of concern,” said the statement.

“In particular, the Dhaka City Corporation elections in February were marred by widespread allegations of voter intimidation and an attack on an opposition candidate. The government criticised the UK and other diplomatic missions in Bangladesh for observing the elections,” it said.

The statement also said: “According to local human rights groups, there were at least 158 extra judicial killings in the first six months of 2020. Media freedom continued to be eroded, with at least 38 journalists and more than 400 other people, including health professionals and people critical of the government’s handling of COVID-19, detained under the Digital Security Act.”

In March, opposition leader Khaleda Zia was released from jail following a government decision to stay her conviction for six months, it mentioned.

Commendably, the statement said: “Bangladesh continued to host around 860,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar district. In April and May, the Bangladesh authorities rescued several boatloads of refugees who had been drifting at sea in the Bay of Bengal. Some of the refugees were taken to Bhasan Char, an island in the Bay of Bengal developed by the government to relocate refugees from the camps.

“The UK and other partners continued to call for independent and comprehensive technical and protection assessments to evaluate the safety and sustainability of the Bhasan Char facilities. In the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, restrictions on internet access remained in place, hindering humanitarian operations and public health messaging around COVID-19,” it said.

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