HRFB Urged to the Government to accept UPR recommendations to implement human rights pledges
On 14 May 2018, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in its 30th session has reviewed Bangladesh’s human rights situation for the third time under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Based on that review, Human Rights Forum Bangladesh (HRFB) organized a press conference titled “Reviewing Bangladesh’s human rights situation at the UN Human Rights Council: Standpoint and demand of Bangladesh Human Rights Forum” at Dhaka Reporters’ Unity on 20 May 2018. The main objective of the press conference is to express opinions and reactions of the forum regarding the speech Bangladesh government delivered at the UNHRC, the recommendations that have been accepted, those kept under consideration as well as those that have been noted. Present in the press conference as speakers were Mr. Zakir Hossain, Chief Executive of Nagorik Uddog and member of the steering committee of the Forum; Mr. Sanjeeb Drong, General Secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum and HRFB Forum member; Mr. Pallab Chakma, Executive Director of Kapaeeng Foundation and Forum member, Mr. Saleh Ahmed, Executive Director of Bandhu Social Welfare Society and Forum member and Ms. Selina Ahmed, Executive Director of Acid Survivors Foundation and Forum member. Mr. Ranjan Karmaker, Executive Director of Steps Towards Development and member of the steering committee of the Forum moderated the press conference.
Tamanna Hoq Riti, coordinator of the Forum and staff of Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), read out a written speech that contained the viewpoint of the Forum. She informed that in this UPR cycle, 105 countries have made 251 recommendations, out of which Bangladesh Government has accepted 167 recommendations. The government has requested for more time (until the 39th session that will be held at the end of this year) in responding to 24 recommendations considering those being either politically sensitive or for lack of preparation. It is very unfortunate that Bangladesh has refused to accept 60 recommendations, which is quite unacceptable and has weakened Bangladesh’s human rights commitment at the international level. Noteworthy, Bangladesh rejected only 5 recommendations during the 2nd UPR cycle. Besides, the Forum has areas of disagreement on the initiatives taken after the 2nd cycle of reviewas mentioned by the government. In particular, the forum thinks what the government has mentioned in terms of the present situation and steps taken against enforced disappearance by state forces, extrajudicial killing and torture, freedom of expression, freedom of press and security of journalists, implementation of the CHT accord etc. are not reflection of the reality.
General Secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum and HRFB member Sanjeeb Drong mentioned that the recommendation to implement the CHT Accord was made in all the last three sessions. And each time the Government said that they were firmly determined to implement of the Accord. But from the way things are moving it seems unlikely that not too much progress will be visible before the next UPR session (which will take place after four and a half years). He remarked that the government tends to forget that development is not possible by excluding human rights. It may be possible sometimes for the time being, but that does not last long.
Executive Director of Kapaeeng Foundation and HRFB member Mr. Pallab Chakma said that the human rights picture that the government presented makes it look like there are no human rights issues in the country. He asked, if the government is so confident about that, then why are they not accepting the recommendation to send open invitations to the special representatives/rapporteurs of the UN?
Chief Executive of Nagorik Uddog and HRFB steering committee member Mr. Zakir Hossain said that the government participated in three human rights review sessions in the last one and half year – in 2017,to review status of implementation of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); in March 2018 of the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR); and in May 2018 in the UPR session to review overall human rights situation. It is significant that government is taking part in these human rights mechanisms, but in order to make this participation meaningful government needs to put emphasis on implementing the recommendations.
A number of demands have been made on behalf of the forum. These are:
- The Government should immediately accept those recommendations which have been kept under consideration.
- The Government needs to re-consider those recommendations that the government did not accept and that is for the sake of the people, constitution and democratic values and in respecting the international human rights obligations as well as for improving the image of the country in the international arena.
- If the Government is not willing to accept any of the recommendations, it should explain to the peoplethe reasons behind that.
- Mere accepting the recommendations is not enough, specific commitment to implement them should also be made.
- The Government should discuss with the citizens and human rights commission before taking any final decision.
- Involving the relevant ministries and after discussing with the citizens’ forums, The Government needs to adopt a national action planwith due emphasison regular monitoring for the full implementation of the recommendations.
- Prepare yearly report to review the status of implementation and share them with the people including human rights activists, media and all sections of people
Finally, moderator Mr. Ranjan Karmaker informed the journalists that the Forum will continue strong advocacy with the Government for implementing the recommendations. And when the final document will be released by the UN Human Rights Council at the end of this year, the forum will translate that into Bangla and disseminate among all levels of people from local to national level. In addition, the forum will continue to monitor the implementation process by the government and make public the findings each year. The forum members requested the journalists to continue their support and publish regular reports in this regard.