Vol. 10 - No. 7


SOUTH ASIA: BANGLADESH                                                                                                                       News Briefs

Steady Progress

(Afghanistan and Myanmar in the 
         map are not members of SAARC)

Human Rights

The observance of International Human Rights Day in Bangladesh yesterday could not have happened in sorrier circumstances.

For all the fanfare associated with a celebration of the day, through seminars, symposia and the like, the fact remains that in today's Bangladesh, there is a blight which casts its shadows over the rights that citizens are morally and constitutionally entitled to enjoy. Justice Mohammad Habibur Rahman puts it in perspective for us when he notes that the executive branch of government possesses neither the skills nor the power to protect human rights. That is a severe indictment of the authorities. Add to that the fact that there is hardly any meaningful exhortation from the powers that be about the need to guarantee human rights through taking swift action against those who have continued to demonstrate a cavalier attitude to them through a systematic violation of them.

We cannot forget the glorious tradition that our people have set over the decades in the cause of democracy and freedom. It was particularly through the 1960s and early 1970s and again between the mid-1980s and early 1990s that Bangladesh's people spontaneously waded into the struggle for a reassertion of their rights. That being the reality, it is a matter of profound regret that when it comes to a preservation and upholding of fundamental human rights as guaranteed by the constitution, successive governments in the country have repeatedly failed to live up to expectations. Not only during times of extra-constitutional regimes but in the era of elected civilian government as well have we noticed a clear, persistent and disturbing trend toward a reluctance to reassure citizens that their rights are safe and secure in the hands of the state. In the past many years, beginning with the BNP-led government elected in 2001 and continuing into the present Awami League-led administration, innumerable citizens have died in so-called crossfires without the authorities making any move to take to task the security forces personnel responsible for such heinous acts. When one adds to these 'crossfire' killings the number of deaths in police custody, one must ask why democracy must remain prey to forces that are a clear throwback to darker times. Instances of people being taken on remand and subjected to inhuman torture, cases of disappearances and mass arrests of citizens on the eve of opposition political programmes are a clear repudiation of all the democratic values we have tried so hard to uphold in Bangladesh.

The sentiments which have emerged from this year's observance of Human Rights Day must act as a call to corrective action by the state. It does not help that the police, who should be in the forefront of the struggle for the protection of human rights, are today considered the most corrupt segment of Bangladeshi society. It does not help either that the executive branch remains insensitive to its obligations to the nation. There is of course the judiciary which has of late taken action against certain manifest rights violations. The question, however, is: how many cases of human rights come before the judiciary and how many of those can it logically tackle?

The issue of human rights must exercise the minds of the government, from the prime minister to the rest of the cabinet and all the way down to parliament and the civil and police administration. A society which prides itself on its adherence to democratic aspirations and yet remains helpless before those who see nothing wrong in demeaning citizens through flinging their rights to the winds is condemned to a dark, forbidding future.

[South Asian Media]

News Briefs


US, UK and India consider RAB a potential counter-terrorism ally, reveal WikiLeaks: The WikiLeaks through the US Embassy in Dhaka revealed that the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK) and India share almost common counter-terrorism goals in Bangladesh, all of whom consider Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) a potential counter-terrorism ally. The January 2009 cable revealed, "The ambassador stressed that the US Government had started human rights training for the RAB. He added that the RAB was the enforcement organisation best positioned to one day becomes a Bangladeshi version of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation." The Daily Star, December 22, 2010.

‘This Government to finish war crimes trial’, says Law Minister Shafique Ahmed: Law Minister Shafique Ahmed on December 15 said that the trial of war criminals will be finished off within the tenure of this Government. "We are trying the war crimes trial lives up to the international standards and none can raise any question about it," he told reporters. The Daily Star, December 16, 2010.

[South Asia Intelligent Review]

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