Human Rights Forum Bangladesh (HRFB) wishes success to all the political parties in the upcoming National Parliamentary Election. The Forum demands that the election manifesto of the parties to reflect upon the inherent pledges mentioned in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) especially to ensure that, “No one shall be left behind” in the development process. We are all aware that as important as each of the 17 Goals of the SDGs are, the achievement of those goals is only possible once the targets mentioned under Goal-16 are met. Thus, we are urging the political party that forms the next Government to prioritize on the issues of Goal-16 while formulating their election manifesto. Goal-16 underlines the need to build up a peaceful and inclusive society, ensuring access to justice for all citizens and establishing good governance as well as effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
In this backdrop, keeping the upcoming national parliamentary election in mind, Human Rights Forum Bangladesh (HRFB) is urging all political parties to incorporate the following pledges in their election manifesto, and urging the political party that shall subsequently form the government, to implement the pledges as mentioned below:
- A “zero-tolerance” policy shall be strictly followed against any incidences of human rights violations such as extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance, torture in custody, etc. Besides, if there are any allegations of human rights violations, then those shall be fairly investigated without any delay and the perpetrators shall be brought under punishment by maintaining proper legal procedures.
- State forces shall be instructed to fully maintain High Court directives in the events of detention or arrests. When there are any allegations of custodial torture made against these forces, then proper and fair investigations shall be ensured instantly in accordance with existing laws.
- It shall be ensured that citizens’ constitutional right to expressions and fundamental human rights are not breached. Emphasis shall be given on creating an environment where citizens can practice these rights without any fear of intimidation, revenge or offensive remarks. The political party that shall go to power should give strict directions to all the state agencies in this regard.
- People’s right to freedom of expression, right to association, right to assembly or holding peaceful meetings with due respect to the law shall be ensured. Law-enforcing agencies and state organizations should be instructed to refrain from using excessive force or making obstructions to citizens’ peaceful activities. Any violations should be strictly dealt with.
- Law-enforcing agencies shall not be used for political purposes.
- Children shall not be involved or used in political activities.
- Necessary amendments shall be made to the laws that are contradictory to the right to freedom of expression of the press and citizens in consultation with stakeholders.
- With full respect to the rights of the minority communities, due importance shall be given to ensure their security and rights before and after the elections. It shall be ensured that minority communities shall be able to enjoy their voting rights without any threats or fear of attacks, and local leaders and activists shall be provided with necessary directions in that regard.
- Effective awareness and preventive measures shall be strengthened to stop violence against women and children. Steps shall also be taken to find out and remove loopholes and gaps in the existing preventive measures. Reservations from Articles 2 and 16 (c) of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) shall be withdrawn and uniform family code to be introduced to eliminate all discriminations.
- Gender equality should be ensured at all levels besides gender-responsive planning and budgeting. Steps shall be taken for social and political empowerment of women along with their economic empowerment.
- A National Action Plan shall be adopted with regular monitoring mechanism for the implementation of the rights of the persons with disabilities, as measures shall also be taken to ensure their access to public services and public places. Quota system, creating access to the persons with disabilities in first and second class government jobs, has to be reinstated and that should be done in accordance with the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities and their Protection Act 2013.
- Full recognition to the rights of the indigenous people including their civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as the right to self-determination shall be ensured. Complete elimination of all types of discriminations and attitudes as well as rights violations of the indigenous people, dalit community, and tea-garden workers has to be ensured. And pragmatic steps shall be taken to protect their rights to life, properties and dignity, as well as ensuring their equal rights at all spheres of the society and state.
- Approval of the Anti-Discrimination Act in consultation with all stakeholders shall be made without any delay.
- Amendments or changes shall be made to the relevant laws, rules-regulations and policies in relating to protecting the rights and interests of the landless people, third gender, indigenous people, small ethnic groups, minority communities, small land owners, and people with disabilities.
- National institutions including National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Information Commission, Law Commission, Anti-Corruption Commission and Election Commission shall be strengthened and highest support and importance shall be given so that these institutions can independently implement their mandate.
- Effective measures shall be taken to ensure safe migration and to protect the rights and security of the migrant workers. Emphasis shall be given in taking immediate legal measures and trial against those involved with human trafficking. Special measures shall be taken to ensure that women migrant workers do not face any unwanted situations.
- Humanitarian assistance for the Rohingya refugees shall be continued along with strengthening diplomatic efforts so that they can be repatriated to their homeland, safely, willingly and with dignity.
Lastly, an integrated action plan should be made to address the constitutional and international obligations of the state such as− Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), recommendations from different UN treaty bodies including those that came from the 3rd cycle of UPR. Mechanisms shall have to be strengthened to oversee the implementation and monitoring of that action plan.