Bangladesh, China hold consultations on multilateral human rights issues
Yang Xiaokun, Special Representative for Human Rights of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, on Tuesday met Foreign Secretary Ambassador Masud Bin Momen and discussed on multilateral human rights discourse and also on possible areas of cooperation. Earlier, on 13 March, China and Bangladesh held first-ever official consultations on multilateral human rights issues in Dhaka. Yang Xiaokun led the Chinese delegation, while Toufiq Islam Shatil, Director General (United Nations Wing), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led Bangladesh side. Also Read: China says AUKUS on ‘dangerous path’ with nuclear subs deal The wwo sides exchanged views on their national human rights philosophy and achievements, ongoing developments, and mutual cooperation on human rights in the UN multilateral framework. They discussed ways and means to further enhance the existing cooperation in a number of areas in the human rights domain, especially under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Two sides also discussed the situation of forcibly displaced Rohingya people. Also Read: China denies hidden motives after hosting Iran-Saudi talks China and Bangladesh expressed their principled position of maintaining strong adherence to the Charter of the United Nations and expressed willingness to continue such consultations in the future with the view to enhance multilateral cooperation.
UN observes 1st International Day against Islamophobia
The United Nations on Friday commemorated the first International Day to Combat Islamophobia with a special event in the General Assembly Hall, where speakers upheld the need for concrete action in the face of rising hatred, discrimination and violence against Muslims. The observation followed the unanimous adoption of an Assembly resolution last year that proclaimed March 15 as the international day, calling for global dialogue that promotes tolerance, peace and respect for human rights and religious diversity. As the UN secretary-general said the nearly two billion Muslims worldwide – who come from all corners of the planet – "reflect humanity in all its magnificent diversity. Yet, they often face bigotry and prejudice simply because of their faith." Also, Muslim women can also suffer "triple discrimination" because of their gender, ethnicity, and faith. The high-level event was co-convened by Pakistan, whose Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari underlined that Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance and pluralism. Although Islamophobia is not new, he said it is "a sad reality of our times" that is only increasing and spreading. "Since the tragedy of 9/11, animosity and institutional suspicion of Muslims and Islam across the world have only escalated to epidemic proportions. A narrative has been developed and peddled which associates Muslim communities and their religion with violence and danger," said Zardari, also chair of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Council of Foreign Ministers. "This Islamophobic narrative is not just confined to extremist, marginal propaganda, but regrettably has found acceptance by sections of mainstream media, academia, policymakers and state machinery." UN General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi said Islamophobia is rooted in xenophobia, or the fear of strangers, which is reflected in discriminatory practices, travel bans, hate speech, bullying and targeting of other people. He urged countries to uphold freedom of religion or belief, which is guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. "All of us carry a responsibility to challenge Islamophobia or any similar phenomenon, to call out injustice and condemn discrimination based on religion or belief – or the lack of them," he added. Read more: Top UN woman urges Muslims: Move Taliban into 21st century Kőrösi said education is key to learning why these phobias exist, and it can be "transformative" in changing how people understand each another. The growing hate that Muslims face is not an isolated development, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said. "It is an inexorable part of the resurgence of ethno-nationalism, neo-Nazi white supremacist ideologies, and violence targeting vulnerable populations, including Muslims, Jews, some minority Christian communities and others," he added. "Discrimination diminishes us all. And it is incumbent on all of us to stand up against it. We must never be bystanders to bigotry.”" Stressing that"we must strengthen our defences," Guterres highlighted UN measures such as a Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites. He also called for ramping up political, cultural, and economic investments in social cohesion. Read more: No militant act undercover of Islam: PM "And we must confront bigotry wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head. This includes working to tackle the hate that spreads like wildfire across the internet." he added.
‘What about our human rights?’
Three generations of human rights violation victims – under the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami governments – brought out a rally in Dhaka today to highlight the ordeals faced by the families. The focus of the rally was to provide a wholesome perspective on phases of human rights violations in Bangladesh to address the “one-sided narrative that gives the impression that the current government is responsible for all human rights violations in the country.” It is unfortunate that many global organizations like UN agencies and Western powers often buy into this narrative peddled by certain groups with vested interest, the rally organisers were of the view. “BNP-Jamaat and their international allies make much of the few cases of human rights violations during the present government. Conveniently, they overlook the long history of unthinkable human rights violations during the BNP-Jamaat regime. Their unwillingness to even listen to the other victims says all there is to say. What about the three million Bengalis killed and quarter million women raped during the Liberation War? UN has not yet recognized the 1971 atrocities as genocide,” Tarana Halim, president of Bangabandhu Sangskritik Jote, said from the rally. Families of those killed during the largescale atrocities perpetrated by Pakistan army and their local collaborators during the Liberation War were in the rally. Other participants included families of senior Awami League leaders – killed after the brutal assassination of the Father of the Nation in 1975 – and victims of extra-judicial killings and hangings by the first military regime headed by General Ziaur Rahman, founder of BNP.
Myanmar mired ever deeper in crisis as human rights spiral backwards: Türk
Nearly two years on from Myanmar's military coup against the democratically-elected government, the country has sunk deeper than ever into crisis, undergoing a wholesale regression in human rights, UN human rights chief Volker Türk said recently. "By nearly every feasible measurement, and in every area of human rights – economic, social and cultural, as much as civil and political – Myanmar has profoundly regressed," he said Friday. "Despite clear legal obligations for the military to protect civilians in the conduct of hostilities, there has been a consistent disregard for the related rules of international law." "Far from being spared, civilians have been the actual targets of attacks – victims of targeted and indiscriminate artillery barrages and air strikes, extrajudicial executions, the use of torture, and the burning of whole villages," the head of OHCHR added. The OHCHR said at least 2,890 people died at the hands of the military and others working with them, of whom at least 767 were initially taken into custody. This is almost certainly an underestimate of the number of people killed by the military. A staggering 1.2 million people of Myanmar were internally displaced, and over 70,000 left the country – joining more than a million others who fled, including the bulk of the country's Rohingya Muslim population, who suffered decades of sustained persecution and attacks, the OHCHR said. Over 34,000 civilian structures, including homes, clinics, schools and places of worship, were burned over the past two years, the rights office said. Since February 1, 2021, the military has imprisoned the entire democratically elected leadership of the country and, in subsequent months, detained over 16,000 others – most of whom face specious charges in military-controlled courts, in flagrant breach of due process and fair trial rights, linked to their refusal to accept the military's actions, the OHCHR said. "There must be a way out of this catastrophic situation, which sees only deepening human suffering and rights violations on a daily basis," Türk said. "Regional leaders, who engaged the military leadership through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreed a Five-Point Consensus that Myanmar's generals have treated with disdain." "Two of the critical conditions that were agreed – to cease all violence and to allow humanitarian access – have not been met. In fact, we have seen the opposite. Violence has spiralled out of control and humanitarian access has been severely restricted." Read more: Myanmar opium cultivation surged 33% amid violence, UN finds
US did not impose new sanctions as human rights situation has improved: Law Minister
Law Minister Anisul Huq said on Wednesday that the US did not impose any new sanctions against the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) as the human rights situation has improved. "Human Rights Watch does not write anything good about anyone. But they have written in their report that the human rights condition has improved in Bangladesh. Donald Lu has said that they would have imposed more sanctions against RAB, but did not do so as Bangladesh's human rights situation has improved," he told reporters at the secretariat after meeting with Malaysian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Haznah Md. Hashim. “We (the US) have seen RAB has done much good. We also understand the necessity of RAB. Since human rights situation has significantly improved, we have not imposed new sanctions. He (Lu) has told me so very clearly,” the law minister said, quoting the US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Donald Lu. Lu visited Bangladesh recently. In response to a question, the law minister said that he did not ask Lu for lifting the existing sanctions against RAB because it must be done in accordance with legal procedures. Also Read: Bangladesh's growing economy entices US to maintain good relations: FM “We are following those procedures,” he added. "We will take action against RAB members if they commit crimes," Huq said of the elite force's reforms. “The reform process is ongoing; it takes time,” he added. Huq also said that during his meeting with Lu, he demanded that Rashed Chowdhury, the fugitive convicted killer of Bangabandhu, be deported to Bangladesh. “He asked me to contact their judiciary branch. I will knock every door to bring him back,” the minister said. Lu arrived in Dhaka on Saturday evening to discuss ways to strengthen the bilateral relationship, expanding economic engagement and to hear on labour and human rights. During his brief stay in Dhaka, Lu met with senior Bangladeshi ministers and officials including the law minister and civil society leaders to discuss issues of mutual interest.
Rab made ‘tremendous progress’ in ‘respecting rights’ while performing duties: Donald Lu observes
Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu has appreciated the “tremendous progress” made by Rab in “respecting human rights” while performing its duties. “We had quite a good discussion about the Rab. If you have seen the statement this week by the Human Rights Watch, they recognised and we recognised tremendous progress in the area of reducing extra judicial killings by the Rab,” he told reporters at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs today. “This is amazing work. It shows the Rab is able to carry out its important counterterrorism and law enforcement function while respecting human rights,” Lu added. Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen and Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen also spoke on the occasion. The senior US official said they had “very honest and open” discussions with the Bangladesh foreign minister and foreign secretary. “We have expressed our commitment to democracy and human rights. We will speak when we see problems and when we can offer suggestions. We will stand up for freedom of speech, freedom of expression. And we look forward to working very closely with our partners here in Bangladesh,” Lu said. Regarding the labour rights issue, he said it is important for Bangladesh and for trade relationships. “I had the honour of sitting down this morning with (PM’s adviser) Salman F Raman to talk about the way forward, so that we can cooperate on improvement of labour rights in this country. I’m very confident we’re going to make progress this year,” said the US official. INDO-PACIFIC STRATEGY Asked whether the US wants Bangladesh to join the Indo-Pacific Strategy, Lu said they had a “wonderful discussion” on the Indo-Pacific Strategy. “It’s a strategy, it’s not a club. We don’t join.” Regarding restoration of GSP (generalised system of preferences) facilities for Bangladesh, the US official said they are still waiting for the Congress to authorise GSP for any country. “We are working very closely with the government of Bangladesh,” Lu said, adding that Bangladesh will be the first country on the list if the Congress authorises. “I am here to strengthen the friendship with Bangladesh when the world is struggling to establish peace and justice,” he said before taking questions. Talking to reporters, Foreign Minister Momen said, “I am very happy. We had very constructive discussions. The US is our old friend and our relationship turned deeper over the last 50 years. We want to make the relationship much deeper in the next 50 years.” Momen said the US side invited them to visit this month or in April. “This engagement is very effective.” Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen said they discussed all issues of mutual interest – trade, investment, labour rights, sanctions, human rights, democracy and development, as well as Bangladesh’s views on the Indo-Pacific. “Through our sincere efforts, we will be able to elevate our relations to a higher level,” said the foreign secretary. Read more: US committed to continued cooperation with Bangladesh to improve labor rights: Donald Lu LABOUR RIGHTS The United States is “committed” to continued cooperation with Bangladesh in its efforts to improve labour rights, Lu said. At a meeting with Bangladeshi labour rights leaders, Lu listened to their experiences and concerns. Earlier in the morning, he had a breakfast meeting with Prime Minister’s Private Industry and Investment Adviser Salman F Rahman. The US Assistant Secretary had a meeting over dinner with Foreign Minister Momen at his residence on Saturday night. Key issues of bilateral relations were discussed during Lu’s over one-hour stay at the foreign minister’s official residence, a diplomatic source told UNB. Lu, who arrived in Dhaka on Saturday evening, directly went to the foreign minister’s residence accompanied by US Ambassador to Bangladesh, Peter Haas. The US senior official is visiting Bangladesh to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral relationship, expand economic engagement, and go over the labour and human rights situation.
The recommendations some foreigners at times give seem to be “idiotic”: Momen
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen today said that the recommendations some foreigners at times give seem to be “idiotic and illusory”. “Foreigners' knowledge on Bangladesh is very limited,” he said, adding that people of the country are well aware of this. Read more: People will have better standard of living if current development trend continues: Momen The foreign minister was talking to reporters after a meeting at the community clinic of Civil Surgeon‘s office in Sylhet. Thirty lakh people sacrificed their lives to establish human rights and justice when this country was formed, Momen said. The minister said about 70-80 percent people cast their votes in elections in this country, adding that not even 25-30 percent people in many countries vote. “Candidates cannot be found in the election. But in this country, a large number of candidates compete for each post.” Read more: Govt to honour expats through National Expatriate Day: Momen Under the circumstance, Momen urged the media not to focus on foreigners’ statements. “If the media does not go to them (foreigners), they will sit idle,” he said, adding that no country has such media freedom as in Bangladesh. “Many opposition parties are spreading misinformation abroad as they do not want the country to develop,” Momen added.
Attending mother’s janaza with handcuffs, leg irons: NHRC recommends action
The National Human Rights Commission(NHRC) has recommended taking action against the authorities concerned for whom a BNP leader had to attend his mother's janaza wearing handcuffs and leg irons in Gazipur. The commission condemned the incent through a press release on Thursday. According to media report, BNP leader Ali Azam was released on parole for three hours on December 20 and was allowed to attend his mother's Namaz-e-janaza. However, he was handcuffed and shackled throughout the parole period that sparked criticism across the country. Read more: Handcuffs, leg irons should’ve been removed during funeral of BNP leader’s mother: Info Minister The commission thinks that taking a prisoner to his mother's funeral with handcuffs and leg irons after being released on parole is not only inhumane but also against the constitution and fundamental human rights of Bangladesh. Besides, the directive of the High Court regarding handcuffing an accused was not followed in this case, it said. In order to prevent the recurrence of such incidents, the Commission urged the authorities concerned to take legal action against those involved in the incident.
Human rights are at the center of US foreign policy: US Embassy
The US Embassy in Dhaka has said they take “seriously” all allegations of human rights violations and regularly meets with a wide variety of human rights organizations. “The US Embassy had not received any prior communication from Mayer Kanna over the last several years,” said a US Embassy spokesperson on Sunday in light of various articles and statements surrounding Ambassador Haas's meeting with Mayer Dak on December 14. Providing more information to the media in an email, the spokesperson said human rights are at the “center” of US foreign policy. The US Ambassador ended his “prescheduled” meeting with “Mayer Dak” on December 14 due to “security concerns”. Read more: US ambassador didn’t go to the memorial on Martyred Intellectuals’ Day, he went somewhere else: Quader “The meeting was interrupted by protestors, who attempted to enter the building where the Ambassador was located. Other protestors surrounded the Ambassador’s vehicle,” said the spokesperson. He said they have raised this matter at the “highest levels” of the Bangladesh government, as well as with the Bangladesh Embassy in Washington, D.C. Earlier, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan on Sunday said there had been no lack of security when US Ambassador Peter Haas visited Dhaka's Shaheenbagh area recently. While talking to reporters at the Secretariat, he said police personnel rushed to the spot immediately. Read more: US ambassador voices concern over DSA in Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen said the situation that US Ambassador Peter Haas faced could not be seen as a "security threat". “There is no scope to see it as a security threat,” he told reporters at the Foreign Service Academy on Thursday evening, noting that the incident will have no impact on Dhaka-Washington relations.
We uphold human rights in Bangladesh: PM Hasina
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday said that her Awami League party safeguards human rights instead of violating in Bangladesh. “Awami League doesn’t violate human rights here in this country, rather gives protection to it. Awami League ensures the rights of the people,” she said. The premier was addressing a discussion arranged by Bangladesh Awami League (AL) in the city’s Bangabandhu International Conference Centre, marking the Martyred Intellectuals Day-2022. She presided over the meeting. Slamming opposition BNP men for talking about the killings and forced disappearance issues, she said it is Ziaur Rahman (founder of BNP) who had started the culture of forced disappearance in the country. Hasina, also the AL president, said Ziaur Rahman was responsible for killing many officers and soldiers of Bangladesh Army and Air Force. At the same time, he was also behind the killing of many AL leaders and made them disappeared, she added. She said the families and relatives could never see the bodies of the victims. “How come the BNP talks about forced disappearance and killing?” Read more: PM: During BNP’s regime, human rights were violated at every step Hasina, the eldest daughter of slain Bangladesh leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, said they, who lost their dear ones on August 15, 1975, had no right to seek justice. She was not allowed to file a case after returning home in 1981. “Where were my human rights? Why couldn’t I see the bodies of my parents?” she added. Pointing at the USA and some other countries, she said they are protecting the human rights of killers and human rights violators. “They are busy in protecting the human rights of the killers,” she said. The PM also blasted BNP for taking no programme to observe the Martyred Intellectuals Day and not showing respect towards the martyrs. “Today we’re observing the Martyred Intellectuals Day. But what is the BNP’s programme on this day? Do they have any?” Pointing at BNP, she said they have intimacy with the killers of the intellectuals and the Father of the Nation, the murders and corrupt persons. The premier said BNP and Jamaat know how to loot and kill the people, and engage in corruption. So, they don’t show any respect toward the intellectuals, she added. “What respect can they show? We can’t expect that they would show respect (to intellectuals),” she said. The AL president said her party had pledged to hold the trial of the killers of the martyred intellectuals and today her government tried them accordingly. Read more: I can understand PM Hasina’s pains: Bachelet AL general secretary Obaidul Quader delivered the introduction speech, while AL leaders Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, Muhammad Abdur Razzaque, Abdur Rahman, Mahbubul Alam Hanif and AFM Bahauddin Nasim, among others, spoke at the discussion. At the outset of the event, a minute of silence was observed as a mark of respect to the memories of the martyred intellectuals as well as Bangabandhu, four national leaders and the martyred freedom fighters. The nation observed the Martyred Intellectuals Day on Wednesday, paying tributes to the intellectuals who had been killed systematically by the Pakistan occupation forces and their local collaborators at the fag-end of the country’s Liberation War in 1971. Sensing an imminent defeat, the Pakistani occupation army and their local collaborators carried out the cold-blooded mass murders under a carefully thought-out plan to intellectually cripple emerging Bangladesh.