free and fair election
The United States shared the view with other observers that Sunday's (January 07, 2024) elections in Bangladesh "were not free or fair" and they regret that not all parties participated, the US State Department said. The United States remains concerned by the arrests of political opposition members and by reports of irregularities on elections day, said US State Department spokesperson Mathew Miller in Washington on Monday (January 08, 2024). Miller said the United States supports the people of Bangladesh and their aspirations for democracy, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of expression. Read: No legitimate grounds to warrant economic sanctions against Bangladesh: BGMEA The United States, however, recognised that the Awami League won a majority of seats in the January 7, 2024 parliamentary elections, he said. "Looking ahead, the United States remains committed to partnering with Bangladesh to advance our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific, to supporting human rights and civil society in Bangladesh, and to deepening our people-to-people and economic ties," said Miller. He said the United States condemned violence that took place during elections and in the months leading up to it. Read: Awami League not worried about any sanctions: Quader The US encouraged the government of Bangladesh to credibly investigate reports of violence and to hold perpetrators accountable, said the spokesperson. "We also urge all political parties to reject violence," Miller said. Read more: Bangladeshis did not get fullest range of voting options: UK on Sunday’s election "My read of this US readout on Bangladesh’s election is that the current US policy toward Dhaka will essentially remain in place-a continued strong focus on rights and democracy, but otherwise stay the course and keep pursuing deeper strategic partnership," said Michael Kugelman. "US government statement on Bangladesh elections acknowledges AL win, criticizes process, condemns violence, and looks forward to continued partnership," said Geoffrey Macdonald.
US says killing of a police officer and a political activist, burning a hospital and buses are unacceptable
The United States has condemned the political violence that took place in Dhaka on October 28. During a press briefing on October 30, US Department of State Spokesperson Matthew Miller said, “The reported killing of a police officer, a political activist, and the burning of a hospital and buses are unacceptable, as is violence against civilians, including journalists.” Read: US Embassy in Dhaka to limit public services on Sunday Miller said the US encourages the authorities to thoroughly investigate the incidents at the October 28th rally and to hold those responsible for violence accountable. Read: US for country-driven action, looking for innovative solutions to plastic pollution: Ambassador Haas He said the holding of free and fair elections is everyone’s responsibility – voters, political parties, the government, the security forces, civil society, and the media. Miller said diplomats talk to a wide variety of people – civil society organizations, media professionals, business leaders, cultural contributors, educators, and many other types of organizations and individuals. Read: Ambassador Imran apprises US senators of Bangladesh’s dev journey "That is what diplomats do as part of their everyday job," the US State Department spokesperson added. “We have made clear that we will take actions if necessary to support democracy in Bangladesh, and I would never preview those from the podium,” he said while responding to another question.
Hasina and Biden have discussed importance of free, fair elections in Bangladesh as well as improving relations
United States National Security Council (NSC) Coordinator for Strategic Communications, John Kirby, has said that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and US President Joe Biden have discussed the importance of free and fair elections in Bangladesh. At a media briefing on October 4 at the White House, Kirby said the two leaders also talked about the importance of improving bilateral relationship across a range of issues, including climate change. Read: No one from outside should obstruct elections in Bangladesh: PM Hasina warns in New York The NSC coordinator came up with the remarks when a questioner wanted to know about the current state of relationship between the US and Bangladesh, mentioning that President Biden also had a pull-aside meeting with PM Hasina in New Delhi. Read more: All countries including Bangladesh should have free and fair elections: US State Dept During her recent visit to Washington DC, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina held a meeting with US National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan. After attending the UN General Assembly in New York, Sheikh Hasina went to Washington DC and visited the Bangladesh Embassy there on September 27. The meeting between her and the US national security adviser was held at the embassy.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has ruled out any tension in Bangladesh-US relations following the State Department’s announcement of initiating visa restrictions on Bangladeshi individuals. “We have no tension with the US,” he told reporters in Manhattan on Saturday (September 23, 2023), noting that the US will not grant visas to those who will try to foil the upcoming election in Bangladesh. Also read: Bangladesh fully committed to nuclear disarmament: Momen The foreign minister said that US President Joe Biden wants to strengthen the existing friendly relations with Bangladesh in the next 50 years. “I am confident our partnership will continue to flourish for the next 50 years and beyond,” Biden wrote in a letter sent to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina marking the 50-year milestone in the bilateral relationship between the US and Bangladesh. Also read: Bangladesh among more than 30 countries approved to trade in rouble: Russian Embassy US Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights Uzra Zeya said the visa policy announcement affirms the United States’ commitment to “free, fair and peaceful” elections worldwide and supports efforts of partners in the Government of Bangladesh, civil society, and media to ensure democratic elections that reflect the will of Bangladeshis. Earlier, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam said that Bangladesh has nothing to lose and they are not worried about the visa restrictions issue, as they are doing nothing wrong. Also read: Visa restrictions: US didn’t issue any statement regarding anyone in particular, says Home Minister Talking to reporters at his residence on Friday night, the state minister also said there is no reason to see further sanctions from the US before the next election as the government has received assurance from the US. The United States has said it will not release the names or numbers of people in Bangladesh who would face visa restrictions. Also read: 'Nothing to lose' from visa restrictions: Shahriar Alam “Visa records are confidential under US law,” Embassy Spokesperson Bryan Schiller told UNB on Friday. But, he said, the US government has looked very closely at incidents since they announced the visa policy. “After a careful review of the evidence, we have imposed visa restrictions on members of law enforcement, the ruling party, and the political opposition,” Schiller added.
Full transcript of UNB’s email interview with Michael Kugelman (MK), director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington, in the wake of the US announcing it was taking steps to impose the first batch of visa restrictions on Bangladeshi law enforcement officials, and members of the ruling party and political opposition: UNB: First of all, what do you make of the timing? There was an impression earlier that these restrictions would most likely be imposed after the election, as they were in the case of Nicaragua and Zimbabwe. What do you think Washington is trying to signal by coming out 3 months prior and announcing the first restrictions? Is it dissatisfaction with how the overall preparations are going? MK: I think the US wanted to act proactively, to send a tough message. In effect: This is important to us, we mean business, we want that free and fair election, and here's what we'll do in the weeks leading up to it when we see someone trying to imperil that outcome. Keep in mind that the Biden administration genuinely wants a close relationship with Dhaka, and so it doesn't want to be in the tough position of having to decide whether to review the future of the relationship if the election is deemed to be unfree and unfair. For Washington, the goal is to give the full Bangladesh state—the political class, law enforcement, media, business leaders, and so on—the strongest possible incentive to ensure a free and fair election, so that the US doesn't have to make that difficult decision. Read: Visa restrictions imposed upon 'careful review of evidence': US embassy UNB: Although US law doesn't allow it, to the extent that we're allowed to speculate, do you think there are some really big fish that would have come under the restrictions? Without them it may be futile don't you think? MK: I don't know the identities of the people targeted, though indeed a stronger message would be sent if some big fish were among them. UNB: Visa restrictions are not the same of course, as Magnitsky sanctions. Do you think these individuals, whoever they are, should now worry that they might be brought under Magnitsky, say if they turn out to be repeat offenders in the days ahead? MK: I think this depends on who the people are that were targeted. If some of those targeted are business leaders and others that depend on transactions with the US, then one can't rule out Magnitsky. That said, as I understand them, these visa restriction policies are specific in scope and don't stipulate—at least not publicly—that they could expand into wider restrictions that would encompass Magnitsky. Read: US taking steps to impose first batch of visa restrictions UNB: A US delegation is due next month to assess the situation on the ground for an observer mission during the election. The EU has already said it won't send observers after its own team came and assessed the conditions. How much of a blow do you think it would be if the US also says no? Do you see a 'No' as a rejection of the process? MK: A decision not to send observers can be spun differently depending on where you sit politically. Certainly, for the opposition and other government critics, not sending observers can be pointed to as an indication of the international community having lost faith in the idea of a free and fair election and not wanting to be part of an electoral process that it feels is destined to fail. But the government could spin it as a success, that the international community must be sufficiently confident about the election being free and fair if it has no need to have observers in place. Read: 'Nothing to lose' from visa restrictions: Shahriar Alam UNB: Finally, do you see the possibility of wider sanctions on say trade or other things, depending on the quality of the election? MK: I do think the administration will review the future of the relationship if the election is deemed to be rigged. This could result in a decision to downgrade some aspects of the relationship, and possibly new sanctions. But the administration will need to be careful. It truly values its partnership with Bangladesh, which has grown in recent years, especially on the trade side. And against the backdrop of rapidly intensifying great power competition, Bangladesh, as a non-aligned state sitting astride the Indian Ocean, has great strategic importance for Washington. There are also influential actors, like the US-Bangladesh Business Council, which would likely push back against trade sanctions and any plan to rein in commercial relations. So the US would need to be cautious in its approach. Read more: A big moment for Bangladesh and its relations with US: South Asia specialist
Director of the South Asia Institute at Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. Michael Kugelman has said it may be more difficult for the US to make a “conclusive judgment” on the upcoming national election results in Bangladesh if opposition BNP boycotts it. “Because if the Awami League is running against itself, if it gets 98% of the vote, you can't say that those votes were taken away from the BNP. So it's all very unsettled,” he told UNB in an interview, noting that the Biden administration wants a free and fair election in Bangladesh and at the end of the day, the US wants to have a good relationship with Bangladesh. The government of Bangladesh keeps reiterating that it is committed to holding a “free, fair and peaceful” election in the country. The next national election is likely to be held in December this year or January next. EU expects next election in Bangladesh to be free, fair and free from violence: Gilmore in exclusive interview
British High Commissioner wanted to know EC’s efforts in ensuring that journalists can work freely: CEC
British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Sarah Cooke on Sunday said her country is encouraging “free, fair, participatory and peaceful” elections in Bangladesh. She said fair elections will help Bangladeshi citizens exercise their democratic rights. Read: UN expresses desire to see a fair, peaceful election in Bangladesh: Obaidul Quader “We had a very constructive introductory discussion,” High Commissioner Cooke told reporters after her first meeting with Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal and his team. She said they discussed the vital roles of strong democratic institutions, media, and civil society. The British high commissioner said they also discussed the role of independent observers during the election. Talking to reporters, the CEC said High Commissioner Cooke wanted to know the Election Commission’s efforts for ensuring that journalists can work freely. Read: UK keen to boost trade and investment with Bangladesh: Sarah Cooke tells PM Hasina He said the media raised the demand regarding the use of motorcycles. The CEC said they were considering whether it would be misused or not. Some — using muscle power— might create problems, taking advantage of motorcycle use. “Keeping that in mind, we made a provision,” said the CEC. Read: I’m committed to deepening Bangladesh-UK extensive cooperation: Sarah Cooke At the meeting, Election Commissioner Anisur Rahman and EC Secretary Md. Jahangir Alam were also present. Bangladesh Election Commission is taking preparations to hold the next national election in December this year or January next year.
Sanctions, freezing assets, giving partner nations intel can be tools to fight corruption: US State Dept
The United States has encouraged Bangladesh to “root out corrupt actors,” operating within its borders “fairly and impartially.” “Generally speaking, sanctions can be a tool to fight corruption,” US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters in a regular briefing in Washington on August 8. He said they have other tools as well, such as freezing assets and giving partner nations information so they can prosecute cases. Read: US prioritizing global anti-corruption efforts, to focus on business aspects in future: US official tells foreign secretary Responding to a question on demand for free and fair election, Miller said they have made it clear several times that the US supports free and fair elections in Bangladesh. “We’ve made that clear publicly. We’ve made that clear in conversations with the Bangladeshi Government, and that will continue to be our policy,” he said. The US Department of State’s Coordinator on Global Anti-Corruption, Richard Nephew, echoed the same regarding sanctions to address corruption during his Bangladesh visit on August 6-8. Read: Bangladesh can draw more investment if corruption remains less prevalent: Peter Haas During his visit, Nephew met government officials, businesspersons, and civil society leaders to discuss how to fight the scourge of corruption. Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen, after his meeting with Nephew, said that Bangladesh laid emphasis on more transparency and accountability over issues involving money laundering, noting that in most cases Bangladesh does not get required feedback when it comes to mutual legal assistance. Read: Public Service Commission was plagued by corruption, depriving meritorious candidates during BNP-Jamaat govt: Sajeeb Wazed The US has invited Bangladesh to attend the 20th anniversary of the UN Convention Against Corruption in Atlanta in December this year. The foreign secretary said Bangladesh will take part in the meeting where the host US will seek renewed commitment from the participating countries or institutions to jointly tackle global corruption.
The United States has reiterated that they support everyone’s right to freely exercise their role in a democratic society. "We oppose any restrictions on human rights," US Department of State Spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters during a regular media briefing on July 24. Read: Dhaka Metro Rail a symbol of Japan’s contributions to Bangladesh’s fast development: Nishimura Yasutoshi He said visa restrictions would apply to anyone who undermines the democratic election process in Bangladesh. "Actions that constitute undermining the democratic election process include vote rigging, voter intimidation, the use of violence to prevent people from exercising their rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly, and the use of measures designed to prevent political parties, voters, civil society, or the media from disseminating their views," said the spokesperson. Read: EU Special Representative for Human Rights in Dhaka with ‘wide-ranging’ agenda Responding to another question, he said they do not take a position with respect to any political party in Bangladesh or in other countries. "But we believe that Bangladesh and all countries throughout the world should have free and fair elections," US Department of State Spokesperson Miller said. Read: Transforming Global Food Systems: $400 billion needed per year while doing nothing could cost $12 trillion
Visiting US Department of State's Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights Uzra Zeya on Thursday said her country announced the new visa policy to supplement Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s commitment to hold free, fair and neutral election. She made the statement while calling on the prime minister at her official residence Ganabhaban, PM’s press secretary Ihsanul Karim told reporters in a briefing. “We do not have any bias towards any party, we want a neutral, free and fair election,” Zeya was quoted as telling the PM. PM Hasina said that it is her commitment to hold free and fair election in the country. Also read: US seeks worldwide partners' assistance for Rohingyas: Uzra Zeya “We always fought for free and fair election in the country, we already have held free and fair election,” she said. She mentioned that Awami League always fought for the rights of the people. “We always fight for people’s right to choose their representatives,” she said. She also mentioned that it was BNP who started vote rigging in the country. In this connection, she said that transparent ballot boxes have been introduced for polls. Hasina recalled the atrocities, terrorism activities and arson attacks of BNP and their allies during 2013-15 that left 500 people killed. Also read: Uzra Zeya reiterates US' hope for "peaceful, fair" elections process in Bangladesh She also mentioned about the grenade attack on her rally in Dhaka on August 21 in 2004 that left 24 people killed and over 500 injured. She said she was saved by Awami League leaders and activists who formed a human shield after the attack during BNP-Jamaat rule. Zeya told the PM that she visited Rohingya camps and talked to the displaced people from Myanmar. She put emphasis on strengthening coordinated international efforts to ensure reparation of the Rohingyas to their homeland in Myanmar. She mentioned that US will provide some USD 74 million for the operational cost in Rohingya camps. Also read: Legal framework enough to hold free, fair elections: Law secretary to EU mission She highly appreciated Sheikh Hasina for hosting such a huge number of Rohingyas in Bangladesh. PM Hasina said that Bangladesh currently is hosting more than one million Ronhigays in two different areas of the country. She also said that human trafficking and anti-social activities are going on in these camps which are very much alarming for the country’s security. The under secretary said that her country will cooperate with Bangladesh for its financial and economic development. She said that the US will help and work together with Bangladesh in labour reforms initiative. In his connection, Hasina said that she personally pushed the owners of industries to enhance the wages and other facilities for the workers various times. Prime Minister’s Private Industry and Investment Adviser Salman Fazlur Rahman, Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen, PMO Secretary Mohammad Salahuddin, Bangladesh Ambassador to United States Mohammad Imran, US Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu and US Ambassador Peter Haas were present. Also read: US Under Secretary Uzra Zeya, Donald Lu visit Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar