Posts Tagged ‘Bangladesh’

Bangladesh Government depicted as “against human rights defenders”

March 5, 2018

Among the many (written) NGO statements issued during the current session of the UN Council on Human Rights in Geneva, this one by the Asian Legal Resource Centre stands out by describing a whole government apparatus as standing against independent human rights defenders. It was dated 26 

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) wants to bring the situation of human rights defenders of Bangladesh to the attention of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Government of Bangladesh stands against the human rights defenders with draconian legislations and various institutions and agencies of the State. Independent dissenting voices face systemic harassments. Given the circumstances, the human rights defenders have to work without any notion of protection while defending rights in the country. The threats against the human rights defenders are increasing as the 3rd Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is approaching.

The Government of Bangladesh has amended the existing laws and has adopted new laws with vague definitions and harsher provisions to stifle the human rights organisations and individual defenders along with other dissenting voices.

The incumbent government made the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act 2016. This law not only intimidates the civil society actors but also prevents the expected outcome that the human rights organisations strive for achieving for the society. The law provides the NGO Affairs Bureau (NGOAB), a wing under the Office of Prime Minister, the power to review and cancel proposed projects by NGOs. A persons’ travelling out of Bangladesh in relation to the projects requires prior governmental approval. The NGO Affairs Bureau is authorised to scrutinise the activities through inspections and monthly coordination meetings by the representatives of the NGOAB while prior approval is also required for planned activities before receiving the grants. Without any judicial process the NGOAB is empowered to impose sanctions for alleged ‘non-compliance’ against any organisation or individual receiving foreign funds for voluntary activities. Such actions also include fines, disciplinary actions, and cancellation of registration of the NGO even for ‘derogatory’ remarks. The decisions of the NGOAB can only be brought before the Secretary of Office of the Prime Minister as an ‘appeal’. The law establishes the bureaucrats’ control over voluntary activities while Bangladesh’s bureaucracy has reputation for systemic corruption and abuse of power.

Bangladesh’s Cabinet has approved the Digital Security Bill-2018 on 29 January 2018. This Bill may be enacted in any day during the ongoing Session of the national parliament. This proposed law curtails both the freedom of press and the writ of human rights organisations. The police is authorised to arrest any person without a warrant of arrest issued by a Court of the country if the police officer believes that an offence is committed under this law. A person can be imprisoned for 14 years, with or without a fine of BDT 10 million for publishing any material online for ‘spreading negative propaganda against Liberation War or the Father of the Nation’ while there is no definition of ‘negative propaganda’ provided in the law. Publishing ‘false’ and ‘distorted’ information to tarnish the image of the State is punishable with three years’ imprisonment and with or without a penalty of BDT three hundred thousand. If a person is held for the second time for the same crime he or she will be imprisoned for five years with or without a penalty of BDT one million. Such provision will put the human rights defenders in grave danger, as they have to contest the official version of the State, which always denies allegation of human rights abuses and accuses the rights groups for ‘tarnishing the image of the State’. For example, the government and the law-enforcement agencies of Bangladesh deny every incident of enforced disappearances and each of extrajudicial executions while the human rights defenders and media explore and expose the truth.

Bangladesh Government, by default, protects the perpetrators of human rights abuses in a deeply rooted culture of impunity. The State prevents the basic institutions from functioning and serving the people with fairness. Instead, the incumbent government uses all the institutions, including the judiciary, as tools to secure its power at the cost of the lives and liberties of the ordinary people.

The participation of independent human rights organisations in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council makes them governmental targets for exposing the human rights realities. For example, Odhikar, a locally based human rights organisation, contributed to the UPR process during the first and second cycles in 2009 and in 2013. This rights group consistently documented the cases and pattern of extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, custodial torture, curtailing the freedom of expression and opinion, and denial of justice to the victims of gross human rights abuses in Bangladesh. The government started harassing this organisation for publishing a fact-finding report on a massive crackdown in May 2013. Its leaders were made the victims of the country’s first ever cyber crime case, which is still pending before a special tribunal incepted for holding trial of such cases. Their bank accounts are frozen and NGO registration’s renewal has been halted since mid 2014. The activists who are engaged in standing beside the victims of human rights violations remain under active surveillance by the intelligence and law-enforcement agencies.

Bangladesh is moving toward another general election by the end of 2018. The incidents of gross human rights abuses are also on the rise. The incumbent government is using the State’s law-enforcement agencies and judiciary to drive away the political opposition. The government has already started arresting the opposition activists arbitrarily as the main opposition leader is afraid to be convicted in controversial corruption cases. As days pass on more violation of human rights would deteriorate the situation requiring the human rights defenders to assist the victims. The activities of the rights groups would invite more reprisals against the human rights defenders, except those who directly or indirectly align with the incumbent government for their financial and political benefits.

Bangladesh’s system of governance is authoritarian and coercive by nature. The institutions – be it a constitutional body or a statutory entity – function according to the wish of the Prime Minister, as a supreme controller of everything. The universal normative principles of justice and good governance do not exist or work in this country. As a result, all the basic institutions constantly fail to act for the actual purpose of upholding the rule of law and facilitate functional democracy. The judiciary and the entire criminal justice apparatus, survive as mere facades. These facades facilitate the process of silencing the society’s vibrant voices.

The ALRC urges the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders to request Bangladesh for sending invitation to the mandate for country visit. The Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to focus on Bangladesh’s domestic human rights realities and intervene for the protection of victims from gross violation of rights.

For some of my other posts on Bangladesh see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/bangladesh/

http://alrc.asia/bangladesh-government-stands-against-independent-human-rights-defenders/

Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law awarded for second time

December 7, 2017

On 4 December 2017 the winners of the 2017 Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law were announced. At the Franco-German Council of Ministers in April 2016, Germany and France announced the launch of an annual international Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/05/surprise-announcement-of-a-franco-german-human-rights-prize/].

All prize winners will receive a diploma and a medal designed by artist Anna Martha Napp that was chosen by a Franco-German jury. The medal symbolises their active commitment to the defence of human rights.

For more on this and other awards, see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/franco-german-prize-for-human-rights-and-the-rule-of-law

Here is a list of the 15 prize winners:


Know more:

Why does MP Tulip Siddiq not want to speak out on Bangladesh?

December 5, 2017

Michael Polak, a human rights lawyer in the UK , wrote in the Guardian of 4 December 2017 “Why will Tulip Siddiq not speak out on Bangladesh’s ‘disappeared’ innocents?”. Behind this title is a serious matter. Ahmad bin Quasem is among the hundreds abducted by state forces in Bangladesh, the country of which this British MP’s  aunt happens to be the prime minister. The author points out that the excuse that the MP has “no sway over Bangladeshi politics” is far from convincing as:.. “And yet earlier this week the Bangladeshi cabinet adopted a resolution “greeting” the Hampstead and Kilburn MP for winning an award in Westminster. Siddiq accompanied the Bangladeshi prime minister during bilateral talks between Russia and Bangladesh in January 2013. Her paternal uncle is Tarique Ahmed Siddique, security adviser to the prime minister. Her mother and brother are both on the ruling party’s council and it is said that her brother is being groomed to be a future leader of Bangladesh. It is clear that Tulip Siddiq has a close relationship with various government figures in Bangladesh, including the prime minister.

Why this MP feels so reluctant to use her influence and to speak out on this and other cases is a mystery. The details of the case of Mir Ahmad bin Quasem, or Arman as he is known to friends and family, a British-trained Bangladeshi lawyer who was abducted in August 2016 by state security forces, follows below.
tulip siddiq
Tulip Siddiq. Photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty

Last year the family of one such victim approached me to press their case. Mir Ahmad bin Quasem, or Arman as he is known to friends and family, is a British-trained Bangladeshi lawyer who was abducted in August 2016 by state security forces. They knocked on his door and, in front of his wife and young children, dragged him away. This abduction followed the exact modus operandi of other abductions by the security forces in Bangladesh. Since this incident there has been no confirmation of his whereabouts, but we believe that he is still alive.

Mir Ahmad was on the defence team for his father, Quasem Ali, who was prosecuted by Bangladesh’s self-styled “international crimes tribunal”, set up by the ruling party in Bangladesh to try crimes committed during the country’s war of liberation against Pakistan.

The tribunal has been widely criticised internationally, including by groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as the United Nations high commissioner for human rights and eminent British lawyers. Along these lines, Mir Ahmad decided to join his father’s defence team but was abducted a month before his father’s execution, while the appeal procedure was still under way.

Mir Ahmad has not been charged with any offence and his abduction and continued detention by the Bangladeshi government is contrary to the Bangladeshi constitution and the country’s obligations under international law. Forced disappearances are common in Bangladesh under the current government: more than 320 people have been disappeared since 2009.

Mir Ahmad is one of three sons of former politicians who were abducted at around the same time, one of whom has been released. In a secret recordingobtained by Swedish radio, it is claimed by a high-ranking government security officer that the fate of those seized is decided by those “high up”. Astonishingly, as reported in these pages, Sheikh Hasina recently claimed that such forced disappearances also occur in Britain and the US, saying “275,000 British citizens disappeared” in the UK each year.

Last week Channel 4 News raised the issue and put the matter to Siddiq. The interaction now has become a matter of public record. Siddiq complained that Mir Ahmad was not her constituent, that she had no sway over Bangladeshi politics and that in any case she was a British MP focusing on Britain…..Even if we are to take Siddiq at her word that she has no sway over Bangladeshi politics, what is preventing her from at least speaking out? My client may not be Siddiq’s constituent, but nor is he the constituent of Shabana Mahmood MP, who raised an official parliamentary question on the matter earlier this year.

Before and since the Channel 4 News report was aired, the family of Mir Ahmad bin Quasem have been visited by state security forces who have reportedly warned them that “if there is any such news, come next time we will not be good like this time and you will not get to see our face like today”.

Since it has come to this, I earnestly hope that Siddiq can speak out to try to help ensure that Mir Ahmad’s mother, sister, wife and two young daughters are not intimidated by the Bangladeshi security services or face enforced disappearance themselves. This is an urgent matter and I ask Tulip Siddiq, as I have done many times before, to speak to me so it can be resolved.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/dec/04/tulip-siddiq-bangladesh-disappeared-abducted-prime-minister

 

Write for Rights again in December 2017

December 4, 2017

Every December, Amnesty International supporters across the globe write millions of letters and take actions for people whose human rights are under attack, in what has become the world’s biggest human rights campaign. Last year at least 4.6 million actions were taken. “For 15 years Write for Rights has given people hope in their darkest moments. Imagine being ill in jail and receiving thousands of letters of support and solidarity; or finding out that people all over the world are behind you in your quest for justice for a murdered relative. Writing letters really can change lives,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General. For last year’s see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/11/04/time-for-the-annual-write-for-rights-campaign/

This year Amnesty International is writing to, among others:

  • The Bangladeshi Home Minister, calling on him to bring the killers of Xulhaz Mannan to justice, without recourse to the death penalty. Xulhaz, a founder of Bangladesh’s only LGBTI magazine, was in his apartment with a colleague when men wielding machetes burst in and hacked them to death in April 2016. Despite ample evidence, the killers have yet to be charged.
  • The Prime Minister of Jamaica, telling him to protect Shackelia Jackson, who has been fighting for justice for her brother Nakiea since he was killed by police in 2014, and has refused to be silenced by police intimidation.  In the past decade around 2,000 men, usually young and poor, have been killed by police in Jamaica.
  • The Prime Minister of Israel, telling him to drop all charges against Farid al Atrash and Issa Amro, Palestinian human rights defenders, who want an end to illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. They brave constant attacks by soldiers and settlers, and are facing ludicrous charges after they joined a peaceful protest march.

 

This year, these 10 people and groups urgently need your support:

Xulhaz Mannan

Xulhaz was a founder of Bangladesh’s only LGBTI magazine, a daring venture in a country where same-sex relations are illegal. He was in his apartment with a colleague when men wielding machetes burst in and hacked them to death. Despite ample evidence, including CCTV footage and eyewitness testimony, one year on the killers have yet to be charged for this brutal murder.

Mahadine

Tadjadine Mahamat Babouri, commonly known as Mahadine, is an online activist from Chad. In September 2016 he posted videos on Facebook criticizing the Chadian government. Within days, he was snatched off the streets, and beaten and chained up for several weeks. He faces a life sentence and is also gravely ill, having caught tuberculosis in prison.

Ni Yulan

A former lawyer, Ni Yulan has supported scores of people forced from their homes by lucrative construction projects. She has braved almost 20 years of violent harassment for defending housing rights, and has been monitored, arrested and repeatedly evicted by the authorities. She was once beaten so badly in detention that she now uses a wheelchair. Ni Yulan continues to help people stand up for their rights

Hanan Badr el-Din

Hanan Badr el Din’s life changed forever when her husband disappeared in July 2013. She last saw him on television, wounded and at a hospital after attending a protest. Hanan’s relentless search for him led her to others whose loved ones were taken by the Egyptian security forces. Now a leading voice exposing Egypt’s hundreds of disappeared, her latest search for information about her husband has seen her arrested on false charges which could result in five years in prison.

Sakris Kupila

Sakris Kupila, a 21-year-old medical student from Finland, has never identified as a woman. Yet he has to endure daily discrimination because his identity documents say he is female – the gender he was assigned at birth. To legally reassign your gender in Finland, you must be diagnosed with a “mental disorder” and sterilised. Sakris opposes this humiliating treatment. And despite threats and open hostility, he continues to demand a change to the law.

MILPAH Indigenous Movement

For the Indigenous Lenca people in Honduras, the land is their life. But huge hydroelectric, mining and other interests are out to exploit that land. MILPAH, the Independent Lenca Indigenous Movement of La Paz, is at the forefront of the struggle against them. They brave smear campaigns, death threats and physical assault to protect their environment, yet their attackers are rarely brought to justice.

Farid and Issa

Farid al-Atrash and Issa Amro are two Palestinian activists who demand an end to Israeli settlements – a war crime stemming from Israel’s 50-year occupation of Palestinian land. Dedicated to non-violence, the two activists brave constant threats and attacks by soldiers and settlers. In February 2016, Issa and Farid marched peacefully against settlements and the Israeli occupation. As a result, they face ludicrous charges apparently designed to obstruct their human rights work.

Shackelia Jackson

Shackelia Jackson will not give up. When her brother, Nakiea, was gunned down by police, she took on Jamaica’s sluggish court system to lead a bold fight for justice for his murder. In doing so, she rallied dozens of families whose loved ones were similarly killed. In response, the police have repeatedly raided and harassed her community. But Shackelia will not be silenced.

Clovis Razafimalala

Clovis is doing everything he can to protect Madagascar’s vanishing rainforest. Its rosewood trees are a precious resource under threat from a network of smugglers, bent on selling them off in what has become a billion dollar illegal trade. Clovis’ efforts to save this rare ruby-coloured tree have brought him unwanted attention. He has been convicted on false charges and could be jailed at any moment

Turkey

Right now, 11 people who have dedicated their lives to defending the human rights of journalists, activists and other dissenting voices in Turkey are themselves in danger. Among them are Amnesty International’s Director, İdil Eser, and its chair, Taner Kılıç, who remains in prison after five months. All are on trial for ‘terrorism’-related crimes, an absurd charge and face a jail sentence of up to 15 years.

Amnesty International’s Brave campaign calls on governments around the world to protect human rights defenders.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/11/amnesty-launches-worlds-biggest-human-rights-campaign/

Training initiative for indigenous human rights defenders in Philippines and Bangladesh

May 16, 2017

Amidst reports about the rising toll among human rights defenders around the world, especially in rural areas, this initiative must me welcome. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/01/violence-against-environmental-human-rights-defenders-one-of-the-worst-trends-in-recent-years/]
Rights push launched for Philippine, Bangladesh tribes
Representatives of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and Relief International pose for a souvenir picture during the launch of the human rights program in the Philippines. (Photo courtesy of the Rural Missionaries)

On 15 May, 2017 ucanews reports that the NGO Relief International has simultaneously launched a project in the Philippines and Bangladesh aimed at training human rights defenders in tribal communities. In the Philippines, Relief International has partnered with the Rural Missionaries “to scale up” the faith-base group’s human rights intervention for tribal people in Mindanao. “This new initiative will promote and protect human rights of vulnerable indigenous communities,” said Sister Famita Somogod, coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines.

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Five Asian human rights defenders speak about anti-torture work in their region

February 2, 2017

The weekly video service of Just Asia of 26 January 2017 is a special focus on the regional meeting of Asian Parliamentarians & Human Rights Defenders Against Torture, held in Hong Kong in December. During the meeting focusing on modernizing criminal institutions, Just Asia interviewed several parliamentarians and human rights defenders.

Just Asia speaks to Dr. P. M. Nair, Chair Professor at the TATA Social Sciences Institute. According to Dr. Nair, institutions need to work together in India to combat torture, and he is confident that once this occurs, things will improve quickly. Dr. Nair also noted the importance of persons implementing laws and regulations to have a human rights perspective, which would particularly help vulnerable and marginalized sections of society.

Just Asia interviews Pakistani Member of National Assembly Imran Zafar Laghari, to learn his views on the rising incidents of torture and corruption in the policing and judicial systems.

In Nepal, the February 2017 deadline for the transitional justice commissions to complete their work is fast approaching. However, other than collecting over 60,000 complaints and starting preliminary investigations, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) have not succeeded in anything meaningful. Meanwhile, Nepal’s Anti-torture legislation is pending in the Parliament. With Colonel Kumar Lama being released by the UK court, there are nominal chances for the Parliament to pass the anti-torture legislation and put it into practice. Just Asia speaks to Mr. Dipendra Jha, a practicing lawyer at the Supreme Court of Nepal, for his views.

Indonesia also faces a rise in executions and the use of the death penalty. At the same time, the revision of the country’s penal code has been ongoing for over a decade. Member of the drafting committee and parliamentarian Mr. Arsul Sani speaks about his views on the penal code revision process and rule of law in Indonesia.

Bangladesh has seen considerable violence and political manipulation in the last year. Dr. Badiul Alam Majumdar, secretary of Citizens for Good Governance shares with Just Asia his views on free and fair elections and the Bangladesh electoral system.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/16/amila-sampath-the-man-behind-the-video-service-of-just-asia/

For comments write to: news@ahrc.asia.

KIOS Foundation in Finland publishes video interviews with four human rights defenders from Asia and Africa

January 19, 2017

KIOS is perhaps not the best-known human rights foundation in the world but that is surely mostly due to the fact that it operates from a small base: Finland. KIOS was founded by 11 Finnish human rights and development NGOs. The representatives of the founding NGOs form the Board of KIOS. In Finland, KIOS raises awareness on the significance of human rights and the work of human rights defenders in developing countries. It also advocates for the development of good practices in Finnish foreign and development policy in support ofHRDs. KIOS focuses its external support on 3 countries in East Africa (Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda) and 3 in South Asia (Nepal, Sri Lanka and to Tibetan civil society organizations in exile). Some long-term partner organizations of KIOS are also supported in Bangladesh, Burundi, Ethiopia and Pakistan. Ulla Anttila is the Executive Director.

Ulla Anttila

On 17 December 2016 KIOS published four video links of interviews with human rights defenders from Asia and Africa (video links), available on You Tube:

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Ongoing harassment of Odhikar and Adilur in Bangladesh

June 1, 2016

 

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - croppedreports that on 25 May 2016, the Anti-Corruption Commission of Bangladesh (ACC) questioned human rights defender Mr Adilur Rahman Khan over an allegation of involvement of the human rights organisation Odhikar in money laundering. Similarly the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the OMCT and FIDH called on 26 May for urgent intervention to step up campaigns in his support.

Adilur Rahman Khan [https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/adilur-rahman-khan]  is an Advocate of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, and founder and Secretary of Odhikar. The human rights organisation was established in 1994 with the aim to advance the civil, political, social and economic rights of the citizens of Bangladesh, and to create a wider monitoring and awareness-raising system on the abuse of these rights. Odhikar also carries out advocacy to address the current human rights situation in the country, provides trainings for human rights defenders and conducts fact-finding missions in rural areas of Bangladesh. Adilur was a Final Nominee for the MEA in 2015.

As the links below show it is clearly a case of administrative and judicial harassment against the human rights organisation Odhikar and its Secretary in a further attempt to sanction and silence their human rights activities.

[On 25 May 2016, the ACC’s Deputy Director Mr Jalal Uddin Ahmed questioned Adilur Rahman Khan over Odhikar’s alleged involvement in money laundering as a part of an investigation opened in 2013. The Deputy Director informed the human rights defender that the inquiry into the allegation related to the the sum of € 97 000 that the ACC supposed had been deposited to the Standard Chartered Bank account of Odhikar, as part of money laundering activities. Adilur Rahman Khan denied all accusations made against Odhikar. He explained that the sum of €97 501,07  available on the organisation’s bank account was part of a contribution made by the European Union (EU) to help Odhikar implement a three-year project titled ‘Education on the Convention against Torture (CAT) and Official Protocol to the CAT Awareness Program in Bangladesh’, from 2012 to 2014.]
BANGLADESH: Families demand return of their disappeared dear-ones within the month of Ramadan

Also on 27 May the Asian Human Rights Commission published a press release about the members of families of 19 disappeared victims who once again took to the street 26 May 2016. They formed a “human chain” in front of the National Press Club in Dhaka to demand the return of their loved ones within the month of Ramadan. Prominent human rights defenders, members of the civil society, and academic scholars joined the families to express solidarity.

 

 

 

 

http://odhikar.org/human-rights-monitoring-report-may-2016/

http://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/urgent-interventions/bangladesh/2016/05/d23782/

http://www.humanrights.asia/news/press-releases/AHRC-PRL-013-2016

for other posts on Odhikar see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/odhikar/

Academic Freedom monitored by Scholars at Risk which celebrates its 15th anniversary in Montreal

May 27, 2016

Attacks on higher education threaten the safety and well-being of scholars, administrators, staff and students; undermine academic work and instruction; and deny everyone the benefits of expert knowledge and scientific and creative progress. Too often such attacks go unreported. Scholars at Risk (SAR) publishes an Academic Freedom Monitor which tracks key attacks with the aims of protecting vulnerable individuals, promoting accountability and preventing future violations. In the period February – April 2016  SAR reports 20 incidents:

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Regional update for ASIA

February 29, 2016

A regional update on Asia is based on a submission to United Nations’ Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (15 February) and a report of the Regional Consultation of Citizens’ Voices held in Kathmandu (25/26 February) held under the aegis of South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR).

The Asian Legal Resource Centre directs the attention of the Human Rights Council to the critical situation of human rights defenders in China, Bangladesh, and Thailand, who are facing dire threats to their person and profession: Read the rest of this entry »