BANGLADESH: Space for fundamental freedoms almost non-existent

Note: This statement was not delivered at the Council due to the lack of time. However, we wish to share this statement with you and provide below the link to the webcast on the UPR report consideration on Bangladesh for your information.

Date: September 20, 2013
Document id: ALRC-COS-24-10-2013
HRC section: Item 6, General Debate

An Oral Statement to the 24th Session of the UN Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organization in general consultative status

BANGLADESH: Space for fundamental freedoms almost non-existent

Thank you Mr. President,

The human rights situation in Bangladesh has suffered the worst during the past four years. The government’s lack of tolerance to free speech and expression has seriously damaged the foundations for the establishment of the rule of law framework.

The ALRC and Odhikar are of the opinion that the criminal justice apparatus in the country is under the absolute control of the government that leaves little space to guarantee complaint making, impartial investigation and unbiased adjudication.

The government is specifically targeting human rights defenders and civil society organisations that have documented and disseminated information concerning serious human rights abuses. Fabrication of cases, arbitrary arrests and detentions and the use of torture are widespread in the country.

Since April 2013, Mr. Mahmudur Rahman, a newspaper editor, is detained for an indefinite period, and the government has sealed the press.

Odhikar’s Secretary, Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan, is in detention, since 10 August, 2013 on a charge that Odhikar has documented cases of extrajudicial executions in Bangladesh. Mr. Khan is the former Deputy Attorney General of Bangladesh.

The government has threatened in no uncertain terms that unless Odhikar reveals its sources of information, its Director, Mr. A S M Nasiruddin Elan will be also arrested.

The justice vacuum that exists in Bangladesh, is exploited by private entities, that hold and maintain local power structures. Mr. Shahed Kayes, a human rights defender working against illegal sand mining in Meghna River was abducted, stabbed and left for dead by criminals who work for the sand mafia. Fortunately Mr. Kayes survived and is temporarily living in a safe house. Mr. F M A Razzak, yet another human rights defender, was abducted, assaulted and left for dead by criminals employed by a military officer.

The NHRC has lost public confidence, that today, it is viewed as a state institution that either whitewashes state abuses or merely functions as a negotiator that encourages withdrawal of all complaints filed against state functionaries.

The ALRC and Odhikar, once again wishes to reaffirm our support to the unique call made by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to stem out authoritarianism, and urges this Council, to prioritize discussions about criminal justice institutions in the member states.

Thank you.

Webcast on the UPR report consideration on BANGLADESH:

About ALRC

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) works towards the radical rethinking & fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in Asia, to ensure relief and redress for victims of human rights violations, as per Common Article 2 of the International Conventions. Sister organisation to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the ALRC is based in Hong Kong & holds general consultative status with the Economic & Social Council of the United Nations.

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