15 May 2018, Tue, 10:33

UN asks Bangladesh to investigate all incidents of enforced disappearances and extra judicial killings

The United Nations Human Rights Council asked Bangladesh to investigate all cases of arbitrary killings, enforced disappearances and excessive use of force, and prosecute and punish perpetrators.

The inter-governmental UN body also called for establishing the truth about the fate and whereabouts of victims of the disappearances.

Such recommendations were made at the ‘Universal Periodic Review’ (UPR) organised by the council in Geneva on Monday.

Referring to violence and excessive use of force by state actors during the previous general elections, the UN Human Rights Committee insisted that Bangladesh should ensure the safety and security of all voters during elections.

The committee, comprised of independent experts, expressed concern at the high rate of extrajudicial killings and reports of enforced disappearances and the excessive use of force by the state actors, and also at the lack of investigations and accountability of perpetrators.

The report, presented there, said from May 2013 until September 2017, 845 cases of extrajudicial killings, about 48 cases of torture to death and about 300 cases of enforced disappearance were documented.

The national report, submitted by Dhaka, claimed that the government of Bangladesh “under the leadership of prime minister Sheikh Hasina maintains a policy of ‘zero tolerance’ with regard to criminal liabilities of the members of the LEAs [law enforcement agencies].”

“The law in general neither accords immunity to the members of the LEAs from criminal prosecution nor makes any discrimination [sic] their favour,” added the report.

A Bangladesh delegation led by law minister Anisul Huq, joined the 30th UPR.

Dwelling on the culture of impunity to law enforcement, the UN reports, compiled by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, regretted that Bangladesh did not accept that enforced disappearances occurred.

The UN recommended establishment of an independent commission to carry out transparent and accountable investigations and prosecutions, repeal the Special Powers Act and reform other relevant laws.

However, the Bangladesh report blamed the Rohingya issue for certain human rights problems at home.

“The realisation of Bangladesh’s human rights commitments faced setbacks in the face of sudden influx of nearly one million forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals (Rohingyas) to Bangladesh,” it read.

Dhaka pledged to continue to host the “forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals” until they voluntarily return to their homeland in safety, security and dignity.

The Bangladesh report made at least eight future pledges including further strengthening “national institutions that promote human rights, democracy, good governance and rule of law”.

The Human Rights Committee and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion expressed concerns about freedom of opinion, expression and association, as well as death threats, physical attacks, intimidation and harassment of journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders.

With regard to the judiciary, the Special Rapporteur noted that its problems included a lack of accountability, severe backlogs of pending cases, lack of judges, discriminatory and patriarchal attitudes and the incorrect formulation of cases.

The Bangladesh report claimed that the government “recognises independence of judiciary as the key requirement for ensuring access to justice and in that line, it has taken a number of measures to ensure the independence of subordinate judiciary”.

The UN Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group in Geneva yesterday recommended Bangladesh thoroughly investigate all the incidents of abductions, enforced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial killings.

Reviewing Bangladesh's human rights records for the third time, the group also called for probing the alleged involvement of law enforcement agencies in those incidents and bringing the perpetrators to justice.

The HRC member states suggested that Bangladesh should ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) to address those issues. They lauded the country for its efforts and achievements in various sectors.

Raising the governance issues, the UN body called for urgent action by the government to guarantee freedom of association, increase transparency in the recruitment of migrant workers to combat forced labour and human trafficking, protect female workers from exploitation in the informal sector, and eradicate child labour, according to the tweets of the UNHRC Secretariat.

The UPR working group recommended that Bangladesh should continue fighting violence against women and children, guarantee the full realisation of their human rights, including their sexual and reproductive rights, and end all forms of discrimination and violence against LGBT people.

It said Bangladesh should make primary and secondary school compulsory irrespective of gender, ethnicity; explicitly prohibit corporal punishment, and amend the child marriage restraint act prohibiting child marriage without exception i.e. “special circumstances”.

The HRC members urged Bangladesh to review the media law, including the digital security and ICT acts, to decriminalise defamation and ensure freedom of expression. They recommended protecting journalists and human rights defenders from harassment and investigating violations against them.

The UPR is a unique mechanism of the HRC aimed at improving the human rights situation on the ground of each of the 193 UN member states.

Under this mechanism, the human rights situation of all UN members is reviewed every five years. Forty-two states are reviewed each year during three Working Group sessions dedicated to 14 states each. These three sessions are usually held in January/February, May/June and October/November.

Bangladesh's first and second UPR reviews took place in February 2009 and April 2013, respectively.