Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen has said the situation in Gaza is not only a classic example of ethnic cleansing but also genocide by a state power assisted by leaders of “the free world and proponents of human rights, humanitarian laws and all moral and ethical values.” “Israel-Gaza war is not a war at all. It is, in fact, barbaric and collective punishment and killing of a captive group of innocent men and women and especially children who cannot be combatants,” he said while speaking at the 8th Extraordinary Islamic Summit in Riyadh on Saturday (November 11, 2023). The Joint Arab-Islamic Extraordinary Summit was held in the city of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to discuss the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people. Read more: Israel must stop killing babies and women in Gaza: Macron tells BBC Momen said it is destroying cities and towns, hopes and aspirations of a nation, and calculated deprivation of an occupied people of their rights – to food, shelter, water, essential medicines, fuel and electricity, and of course, a decent life.
The government has taken preparations to highlight its efforts as Bangladesh's human rights record will be examined by the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group for the fourth time on November 13. The review meeting, to be held in Geneva, will be webcast live. Bangladesh is one of 14 states to be reviewed by the UPR Working Group during its ongoing session from November 6 to 17, 2023. Also read: UN rights body not 'correctly' informed on recent violence in Dhaka: Momen Bangladesh’s first, second and third UPR reviews took place in February 2009, April 2013, and May 2018, respectively, said an official. Usually, Law Minister Anisul Huq and State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam, along with senior officials, join the review. The law minister is likely to lead the Bangladesh delegation this time around as well. The UPR Working Group comprises the 47 member states of the Human Rights Council. Also read: UN rights body studying text of Cyber Security Bill closely However, each of the 193 UN member states can participate in a country review. The documents on which the reviews are based are: 1) National report — information provided by the state under review. 2) Information contained in the reports of independent human rights experts and groups, known as the Special Procedures, human rights treaty bodies, and other UN entities. 3) Information provided by other stakeholders including national human rights institutions, regional organizations, and civil society groups. The UPR is a peer review of the human rights records of all 193 UN member states. Since its first meeting in April 2008, all 193 UN member states have been reviewed thrice. During the fourth UPR cycle, states are again expected to spell out steps they have taken to implement recommendations posed during their previous reviews which they committed to follow up on and highlight recent human rights developments in the country. Universal Periodic Review The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique mechanism of the Human Rights Council that calls for each UN member state to undergo a peer review of its human rights records every 4.5 years. The UPR provides each state the opportunity to regularly: 1) Report on the actions it has taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to overcome challenges to the enjoyment of human rights. 2) Receive recommendations – informed by multi-stakeholder input and pre-session reports – from UN member states for continuous improvement. Established in March 2006 by the UN General Assembly in resolution 60/251, the UPR is designed to prompt, support, and expand the promotion and protection of human rights in every country. Also read: UN rights body urges 'peaceful, inclusive, safe environment' ahead of election As a constitutional democracy, Bangladesh continues to remain "fully committed" to protecting human rights for all. Under the government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh has been adopting progressive policies to realize a better society for all where fundamental human rights, the rule of law, equality, and justice prevails, officials said. Bangladesh considers all human rights to be universal, indivisible, interrelated, interdependent, and mutually reinforcing. Since the 3rd cycle of Universal Periodic Review, the government of Bangladesh continued to adopt legislative and policy reforms, "enhance" democratic institutions and accountability mechanisms to realize the aspiration of “a society in which the rule of law, fundamental human rights and freedom, equality, and justice, political, economic and social, will be secured for all citizens” as pledged by the constitution.
By championing democracy and human rights, US paving the way for a region that thrives: Ambassador Haas
US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas today (October 09, 2023) said that they firmly believe that “competition” in the Indo-Pacific is not about forcing countries to choose, but it is about offering an alternative vision based on respect, prosperity, and partnership. “It’s my hope that our definition of competition in this region allows us to renew our sense of purpose and reinvigorate our commitment to a shared vision for the Indo-Pacific,” he said. The US ambassador was speaking at a plenary session on “Defining Competition in the Indo-Pacific”, moderated by Zillur Rahman, executive director of Centre for Governance Studies and chairman of Bay of Bengal Conversation. Read: Indo Pacific not political, but a natural region: Ram Madhav Jeremy Bruer, Australian High Commissioner to Bangladesh; Lilly Nicholls, Canadian High Commissioner to Bangladesh; and Sarah Cooke, British High Commissioner to Bangladesh, also spoke at the event. “Together,” Ambassador Haas said, they stand as stewards of stability, prosperity, and inclusivity. By championing democracy, human rights, and open dialogue, he said, the US is paving the way for a region that not only endures but thrives. “Through the recognition of our sovereign foreign policy prerogatives, we forge partnerships that are based on mutual respect, shared aspirations, and, especially in the case of our friends on this panel, partnerships and alliances that transcend borders and stand as a testament to our collective commitment to a stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” said the US ambassador. Quoting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Ambassador Haas said, “The Indo-Pacific region must be an area of peace and prosperity for all. Our vision for the region is to have a free, open, peaceful, secure, and inclusive region.” Read: Indo Pacific should be centrally about people: ORF President The United States wholeheartedly agrees to this vision, he said. Looking to the future, Haas said, it is in everyone’s interest to protect that freedom, that openness. “And I’d also like to add to that diversity, that makes the Indo-Pacific such a dynamic engine of growth and prosperity, not just for the citizens of the region, but for the entire world.” He said they collectively champion a resolute commitment to upholding a rules-based international order, fostering robust economic integration, and safeguarding the sanctity of maritime commons. “We are also collectively committed to relying on our alliances and partnerships with each other, and others in the region, to achieve these aims. This is absolutely central to our approach,” he said. Read: Young leaders' passion, innovation invaluable in tackling climate challenges: Ambassador Haas The US ambassador said they applaud Bangladesh’s vision of a “free, open, peaceful, secure, and inclusive Indo-Pacific” and note significant overlap with their own, including on issues such as freedom of navigation and overflight; open, transparent, and rules-based multilateral systems; and environmental resilience. “Here we also underscore that just as we seek a free and open region, we believe we can only truly fulfil these visions when we apply those principles domestically as well,” Haas said.
France, Germany ‘regret Bangladeshi court's decision regarding Adilur Rahman and ASM Nasiruddin’: Joint Statement
A vibrant civil society is essential to the prosperity of every nation, according to a joint Franco-German statement. France and Germany are "deeply attached to respect for the rule of law as well as to the democratic acquis in Bangladesh,” it said. They will continue to support defenders of human rights in Bangladesh, like throughout the world, reads the joint statement. Britain, France and Germany say they will keep their nuclear and missiles sanctions on Iran "We regret the Bangladeshi court's decision regarding Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan," said the statement. Bangladesh, France reiterate interest in expanding bilateral trade and exploring potentials for investment in infrastructure "We have expressed our concern to the authorities on this situation and will maintain our dialogue with them on this case," the joint statement said. The two countries recalled that Adilur Rahman Khan, on behalf of the human rights organization Odhikar, was the 2017 recipient of the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law.
In a collective plea for press freedom and human rights, 19 international organisations have urged the administration of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to halt cases initiated under the Digital Security Act (DSA) against journalist Adhora Yeasmean. This urgent appeal follows an investigation into Yeasmean's video report for a private TV channel RTV on alleged activities of the religious organization Rajarbagh Darbar Sharif, which led to accusations against her under the DSA. Read : Cabinet approves Cyber Security Act to replace controversial DSA The coalition of organizations has also expressed alarm over reports of harassment targeted at Yeasmean by members of Rajarbagh Darbar Sharif. They allege that since mid-July, she has been subjected to unauthorized surveillance, threats, and intimidation. These actions are believed to be retaliatory against her investigative journalism. The coalition insists that authorities swiftly investigate these threats, hold the culprits accountable, and ensure the journalist's safety and psychological well-being. The coalition also calls for Bangladesh to terminate the DSA investigation into Akramul Ahsan Kanchan, a co-accused in Yeasmean's report. Kanchan claimed that Shakerul Kabir, the leader of Rajarbagh Darbar Sharif, acquired local properties deceptively. The coalition views this legal backlash against journalistic sources as a threat to press freedom. Read : DSA amended to prevent misuse of law: Quader Bangladeshi Journalists in International Media (BJIM), a platform of Bangladeshi journalists covering the country for various global media outlets, also endorsed the letter and urged authorities to drop any investigation into Adhora Yeasmin. “Press freedom is vital for a thriving democracy, allowing voices to be heard and truths to be revealed,” stated BJIM spokesperson Redwan Ahmed. “We urge Bangladeshi authorities to cease using the criminal justice system to harass or intimidate journalists and to drop charges against Adhora Yeasmin for her journalistic work.” Amid the January 2024 election, the groups stress free journalism without fear, noting the DSA's repeal but cautioning against the new Cyber Security Act's threats to expression. The coalition also calls for involving stakeholders to shape rights-respecting legislation, underscoring the need to drop charges against expression and release detainees under the DSA. Read : No journalists will be harassed by Cyber Security Act: Law Minister Organisations who have signed the letter are Amnesty International, ARTICLE 19 South Asia, Asian Human Rights Commission, Bangladeshi Journalists in International Media, Capital Punishment Justice Project, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ), Committee to Protect Journalists, Forum for Freedom of Expression, Bangladesh, Free Press Unlimited, IFEX, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), International Women’s Media Foundation, PEN America, PEN Bangladesh, PEN International, Reporters Without Borders, and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam on Tuesday said Bangladesh has an independent judicial process and the court will take decisions based on evidence regarding Prof Muhammad Yunus. “They can observe the proceedings. We welcome that surely,” he told reporters regarding those who wrote a letter in favour of the Nobel laureate. The state minister wanted to know whether there is any instance in the world where allegations against a person cannot be investigated. Together for Yunus: World leaders past and present joined by Nobel laureates, popstars and tycoons in letter to PM “What I want to say is that there has been no influence of the government in the past, and there will be no such influence in the future either. Bangladesh’s judiciary is independent and the independent judiciary will take decisions based on evidence," said the state minister. “They must have the guts and courage to accept the verdict,” he added, describing the development as “frustrating.” The state minister for foreign affairs also said that calling for the suspension of court proceedings is “unheard of”. “I do not think those who are joining in this call in favour of Prof Yunus are doing proper justice to their own reputation,” he said. Obama writes letter of support as pressure mounts on Dr Yunus The state minister also said that the government does not want to make any comment on an issue related to court proceedings. More than 160 global leaders, including over 100 Nobel laureates, wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, expressing their deep concern about the safety and wellbeing of Prof Muhammad Yunus, Bangladesh’s first and so far, only Nobel laureate. Addressed directly to the PM, the letter is signed by Nobel laureates, elected officials, business figures, and civil society leaders. The signatories applauded Bangladesh’s remarkable progress since its independence in 1971. However, their collective concern arose from the “perceived threats to democracy and human rights” that have recently emerged within the country. Petition dismissed, Appellate Division orders to continue labour law violation case against Dr Yunus, 3 others "We respectfully ask that you immediately suspend the current judicial proceedings against Prof Yunus, followed by a review of the charges by a panel of impartial judges drawn from within your nation, with some role for internationally recognised legal experts. We are confident that any thorough review of the anti-corruption and labour law cases against him will result in his acquittal,” the letter addressed to PM Hasina reads.
Together for Yunus: World leaders past and present joined by Nobel laureates, popstars and tycoons in letter to PM
More than 160 global leaders, including over 100 Nobel Laureates, have written an open letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressing their deep concern about the safety and well-being of Prof. Muhammad Yunus – Bangladesh's first and only Nobel Laureate. Addressed directly to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the letter is signed by Nobel Prize laureates, elected officials, business figures, and civil society leaders. The signatories applaud Bangladesh's remarkable progress since its independence in 1971. However, their collective concern arises from the “perceived threats to democracy and human rights” that have recently emerged within the country. Also read: Obama writes letter of support as pressure mounts on Dr Yunus “We write to you as Nobel Prize laureates, elected officials, and business and civil society leaders, and as friends of Bangladesh. We admire how your nation has made laudable progress since its independence in 1971,” the letter signed by, among others, Barack Obama, Jose Ramos-Horta, Mary Robinson, Mairead Corrigan-Maguire, Shirin Ebadi, Denis Mukwege, Nadia Murad, Maria Ressa, Oscar Arias Sanchez, Juan Manuel Santos, Ban Ki-moon, Laura Boldrini, Bono, and Sir Richard Branson, reads. In the letter, the signatories called on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to conduct the upcoming national election in a free, transparent and fair manner. “However, we are deeply concerned by the threats to democracy and human rights that we have observed in Bangladesh recently. We believe that it is of the utmost importance that the upcoming national election be free and fair, and that the administration of the election be acceptable to all major parties in the country. The previous two national elections lacked legitimacy,” it says. Also read: Petition dismissed, Appellate Division orders to continue labour law violation case against Dr Yunus, 3 others Calling the legal proceedings against Dr Mohammad Yunus “judicial harassment”, the signatories called for an immediate suspension of the current judicial proceedings against him. “One of the threats to human rights that concern us in the present context is the case of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus. We are alarmed that he has recently been targeted by what we believe to be continuous judicial harassment, the letter reads. “We respectfully ask that you immediately suspend the current judicial proceedings against Professor Yunus, followed by a review of the charges by a panel of impartial judges drawn from within your nation with some role for internationally recognized legal experts. We are confident that any thorough review of the anti-corruption and labor law cases against him will result in his acquittal.” Also read: Labour law violation case: SC orders disposal of rule on charge framing against Dr Yunus within two weeks This latest letter was a follow up to an earlier letter sent in March. It further adds: “As you know, Professor Yunus’ work, which has been inspirational to all of us, focuses on how social business can be a force for international progress resulting in zero poverty, zero unemployment, and zero net carbon emissions. He is a leading example of how Bangladesh and Bangladeshis have contributed to global progress in recent decades. We sincerely wish that he be able to continue his path-breaking work free of persecution or harassment.” “We hope that you ensure the resolution of these legal issues in an expedient, impartial, and just manner while also ensuring a free, fair, and participatory national election in the coming months, and respect for all human rights. We will join with millions of concerned citizens around the world in closely tracking how these matters are resolved in the days ahead.” On September 9, 2021, Labour Inspector (general) SM Arifuzzaman of the Inspection for Factories and Establishments Department filed a labour law violation case against four people, including Prof Yunus, with the 3rd Labour Court of Dhaka. Also read: HC issues rule on why charge framing against Yunus, 3 others should not be scrapped According to case documents in the public domain, the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) visited Grameen Telecom and uncovered various violations of the labour law. They said 101 workers were supposed to be made permanent, but were not. Workers' and welfare funds were not constituted. Additionally, 5% of the dividends of Grameen Telecom was supposed to accrue to the workers, but that didn't happen, the case filed by the DIFE in September 2021 alleged. Obama over the weekend also wrote to Yunus separately, as a sole signatory, expressing his hope that the 'Banker to the Poor' can continue to do his 'important work'. Meanwhile, 34 eminent citizens of the country in a statement published on Sunday, called upon the government to stop all sorts of harassment against Dr Yunus. Also read: Appellate Division orders Dr Yunus to pay NBR Tk 12 crore tax on donations The letter notes his lawyers' contention that the allegations brought in the case are civil in nature, yet the government has pursued a criminal case. Prof Yunus is one of only seven people to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, the US Congressional Gold Medal, and the US Presidential Medal of Freedom.
ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights call for women, ethnic groups to have greater say in the future of Myanmar
The Myanmar pro-democracy movement must listen to the calls of women and ethnic groups and their vision for federalism, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) said today. On June 29, APHR held a closed-door meeting with women’s rights defenders and activists from Myanmar civil society groups in Chiang Mai, Thailand as part of a series of discussions that aim to provide a platform for gendered perspectives on the crisis in the country, including topics such as federalism, patriarchy, and ethnic inclusion. UN shines light on humanitarian crisis in Myanmar As long as there has been a civil war in Myanmar, there has been a struggle for ethnic autonomy, including the rights to their land, language, health care, education and traditions. For women, in addition to the fight for ethnic equality, has also been for gender equality. In the current context of post-coup Myanmar, new challenges have emerged and a new struggle for equality across all genders and ethnicities. “The commitment and dedication of women to Myanmar’s struggle for democracy is evident across the movement,” said APHR Board Member and former Thai foreign minister Kasit Piromya. “Federalism cannot exist in Myanmar without democracy, and certainly not without the contributions of women.” US sanctions Myanmar’s defense ministry, 2 regime-controlled banks “The history of Burma is rooted in ongoing conflict. When we look at the creators of conflict, it is very clear it is the Myanmar junta. Women have always been involved in revolutionary acts because we believe in genuine peace,” said Moon Nay Li, Joint General Secretary of the Women’s League of Burma . While pro-democracy bodies, including the National Unity Government, the National Unity Consultative Council and the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, have called for federalism to defeat the junta, women-led organizations and activists are advocating for a future that is gender-equal as well as federal. Dhaka seeks ASEAN’s active role for repatriation of Rohingyas “Too often, women are told that their pursuits for gender equality are of lesser importance amidst the shared struggle to defeat the junta. These struggles are interconnected as the commitment to end military rule is rooted in ending patriarchal norms and institutions,” said APHR member and member of the Philippines House of Representatives Arlene Brosas. “Women’s rights defenders are critical actors in the pro-democracy movement, and their voices must be amplified to ensure their needs are met and perspectives are heard.” ASEAN leader acknowledges no progress toward ending Myanmar's deadly civil strife During the meeting, the women’s rights defenders and activists were very clear that more reflection needed to be done on how the ‘pro-democracy’ movement is currently progressing. For many, this includes inner work, primarily from the Bamar majority, on how to ‘unlearn’ certain attitudes and beliefs which stem from Burmanization and the patriarchy. Calls were also made to the international community to engage with pro-democracy stakeholders, and not the regime. “The international community, including ASEAN, must support women human rights defenders and their calls for a more inclusive vision of federalism in Myanmar. Defeating the junta is imperative, but without the participation of women and ethnic people, a democratic Myanmar cannot be sustainable,” said APHR Chair and member of Indonesian House of Representatives Mercy Barends. Alarm over Myanmar, sea feud under ASEAN summit spotlight
US Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, Uzra Zeya, is likely to visit Bangladesh next month to discuss issues of mutual interest. She leads global diplomatic efforts to strengthen democracy, advance universal human rights, support refugees and humanitarian relief, promote rule of law and counternarcotics cooperation, fight corruption and intolerance, prevent armed conflict, and eliminate human trafficking. UN USG Lacroix commends Bangladesh’s proactive role to increase number of women peacekeepers Nothing has been finalised yet, and there is no official announcement from either side regarding the visit. For security reasons, the US Embassy in Dhaka does not usually discuss movements of high-level officials, but a formal announcement will come from the US State Department once things are finalised, a diplomatic source told UNB. Dhaka witnessed a series of visits from Washington in the recent past, including a visit by Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, in March 19-23, 2022. Rohingya repatriation: Bangladesh determined for a ‘small trial’, says Shahriar Alam Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu also visited Bangladesh earlier this year. Lu has been heavily involved in setting Washington's Bangladesh policy in the recent past. After the new visa policy was officially announced by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on May 25, Lu appeared as the public face of the move, making appearances in Bangladeshi media to explain how it would be implemented. UN officials praise Bangladeshi peacekeepers during meeting with PM Hasina
Six Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have urged High Representative/Vice-President of the European Union (EU) Josep Borrell Fontelles to ensure free, fair, and impartial general election – possibly under a polls-time neutral, caretaker government – in Bangladesh. The MEPs are Ivan ŠTEFANEC (EPP, Slovak Republic), Michaela ŠOJDROVÁ (EPP, Czech Republic), Andrey KOVATCHEV (EPP, Bulgaria), Karen MELCHIOR (Renew, Denmark), Javier NART (Renew, Spain) and Heidi HAUTALA (Greens/EFA, Finland). Read more: Religious leaders shocked at congressmen's letter to Biden In a letter to the EU High Representative, the six MEPs also called for ending what they say “violation of human rights, release of Begum Khaleda Zia, and engagement of the government with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and other major political parties to find out a sustainable and democratic solution to the ongoing crises.” The Embassy of the European Union in Dhaka, however, sees this letter as the views of the six MEPs who signed the letter. “I would just note that this letter reflects the views of the 6 MEPs who signed it,” EU Ambassador to Bangladesh, Charles Whiteley, told UNB. Read: State of Christians in Bangladesh: Archbishop Emeritus Patrick D'Rozario rejects 6 US congressmen’s letter to Biden EU has strong reasons to stand with the people of Bangladesh as a long-time partner in trade and development cooperation, the signatory MEPs believe. “Thus, the EU needs not only to remain in constant dialogue with Bangladesh’s authorities on human rights agenda, but also to produce tangible outcomes,” the letter reads. They mentioned potential measures such as restriction of entry into the EEA zone for those responsible for and complicit in human rights abuses, or regular reminding of the conditions for the GSP+ incentive to which Bangladesh is a bidder may be evaluated. Read: Exaggeration, inconsistency in Congressmen’s letter: Shahriar Alam “In this regard, we would appreciate to know more about the results of the EU-Bangladesh Joint Commission and Subgroup on Good Governance and Human Rights and the plans to work on the Bangladeshi authorities on these (and possibly other),” the letter reads.