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UN expert body urges international brands to work with Bangladesh to prevent another garment disaster »

May 8, 2013

UN expert body urges international brands to work with Bangladesh to prevent another garment disaster

GENEVA (8 May 2013) – A United Nations expert group today urged international clothing brands not to disengage from Bangladesh, but to work together with the government, international organizations, and civil society to address working conditions in the garment sector.
 
The UN Working Group on business and human rights stressed that such commitment is crucial to prevent another disaster like the Rana Plaza collapse, where more than 780 people, most of whom were young, female garment workers, have now been confirmed dead. The garment industry employs some 3-5 million workers in the country.

“The international brands sourcing from Bangladesh have a responsibility to conduct human rights due diligence to identify and address their own impacts on human rights,” said Pavel Sulyandziga, who currently heads the five-strong expert group. “If they are linked with negative impacts on human rights through their suppliers, they have the responsibility to exercise their leverage as buyers to try to effect change.”

In that regard, the expert urged the international garment sector to implement the UN Guiding Principles* on Business and Human Rights, which clarify the responsibilities of both States and business for addressing human rights impacts from business related activities.

“International clothing supply chains are increasingly complex and addressing systemic issues is not an easy task, but the scale of the efforts must be commensurate with the challenge,” Mr. Sulyandziga said.

The human rights expert noted that, according to reports, several of the factories operating in the building had been audited in the past. However, it appears that these audits either overlooked or excluded altogether the structural problems with the building. “In other words, a pure audit-based approach is insufficient to address systemic issues,” he underscored.

“We strongly urge international clothing brands sourcing from Bangladesh to address human rights risks in their supply chains with the involvement of workers, other relevant stakeholders, and human rights experts, and to share publicly what they are doing to mitigate their risks,” Mr. Sulyandziga said. He also urged brands to address how buyer behaviour and pricing strategies may prevent investments in safer factories and living wages for workers.

“Human rights due diligence helps business understand better their impact on human rights throughout their value chains,” the expert said. “The UN Guiding Principles also spell out what to do when risks are discovered: identify your leverage and ability to work in partnership with other businesses, local authorities, workers and civil society to work towards sustainable solutions.”

The Working Group also stressed that the government of Bangladesh has the duty to protect human rights from violations by business actors, and that it must take action to ensure a thorough investigation of how the Rana Plaza factories were allowed to operate, bring those responsible to account, ensure reparations for victims, and take strong action to improve protection for workers’ rights.

The expert body welcomed the International Labour Organization and tripartite partners’ agreement on an action plan to improve labour rights and safety in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza tragedy, and commended all partners for this agreement.

The UN Working Group on business and human rights expressed its deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the Rana Plaza tragedy, recalling that this accident took place just five months after the Tazreen factory fire, where more than 100 workers lost their lives, and that poor working conditions and safety standards have been documented in research over the years, without standards having improved significantly.

(*) Check the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/Tools.aspx

ENDS

The Working Group was established by the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2011. The five members are Mr. Michael Addo, Ms. Alexandra Guáqueta, Ms. Margaret Jungk, Mr. Puvan Selvanathan and Mr. Pavel Sulyandziga (current Chairperson-Rapporteur). The Working Group is independent from any government or organization. It reports to the Human Rights Council and to the UN General Assembly. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/Tools.aspx

For additional information and media requests please contact Lene Wendland (+41 22 928 9299 / lwendland@ohchr.org) or write to wg-business@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

Advanced Questions From Participating Countries »

April 26, 2013

Advance Questions which have been submitted to ask the Bangladesh Government on 29th April 2013

Information can be found on the UN Office of High Commissioner Website

100 Countries have signed up for question session

 
Below are the questions which have been submitted in advance, they have been grouped according to topics.
Extrajudicial Killings
  • Extrajudicial killings, torture and impunity. What is the Government doing to put an end to extrajudicial killings, torture and other forms of ill-treatment perpetrated by law enforcement agencies?   Netherlands
  •  We note that the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has transmitted to the government of Bangladesh allegations that enforced disappearances are frequently used by law enforcement agencies. What steps is the government of Bangladesh taking to eliminate this practice? UK
  • What methods are used to investigate and prosecute extrajudicial killings and claims of torture and whether Bangladesh plans to accept the request of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions for a country? Montnegro
Rapid Action Battalion and Torture
  •  Will the Government of Bangladesh, in order to put an end to impunity, ensure that all human rights violations committed by members of law enforcement agencies, including the police, armed forces, and RAB, are thoroughly and impartially investigated and prosecuted? Netherlands
  • We note that the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has transmitted to the government of Bangladesh allegations that enforced disappearances are frequently used by law enforcement agencies. What steps is the government of Bangladesh taking to eliminate this practice? UK
  • Does the government of Bangladesh have any plans to sign or ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT)? UK
Disability Rights
  •  Has the Protection of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (2012) been adopted? If not, when is it expected to be considered? Mexico 
Child Rights
  • What efforts are being conducted to address problems of child labor through the National Child Labor Elimination Policy? Montnegro
  • The National Report submitted by the Government of Bangladesh mentions that a provision has been made for the establishment of an Ombudsman for children (para.90). What is the time frame for the establishment of such a mandate? What would be its functions and resource allocation? Norway
Womens Rights

The Government of Bangladesh has taken commendable measures to promote the rights of women and increase their participation in society. In this regard we note with concern the increase in voices calling for changes in stark contrast to the Government’s policy on women’s rights. As for the Women Policy, we would appreciate more information on timelines and targets for its implementation, and how this will be monitored by the Government. Norway

 
Violence Against Women
  •  Violence against women. What effective measures does the government of Bangladesh intend to take in order to tackle violence against women and girls, e.g. by implementing existing laws? Netherlands
  • What steps is the government of Bangladesh taking to implement the recommendation of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to adopt a national action plan to criminalise violence against women and girls and prosecute perpetrators? UK
  • The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) welcomed Bangladesh’swillingness to consider with drawing its reservations to articles 2 and 16.1(c) of the Convention. What is the current state of play in this regard? UK
Freedom of Expression

How successful are investigations of violent acts committed against journalists? Is the Government of Bangladesh succeeding in bringing perpetrators of these acts to justice? Czech Republic

Rohingya

Could the Government of Bangladesh provide information on measures undertaken to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of stateless Rohingya persons, to improve the situation of the Rohingya refugees and to finalize its refugee policy and take measures to reinstate the resettlement programme? Czech Republic

Indigenous People and Ethnic Minorities
What was the result of the consultation process to ratify ILO Convention no. 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples 1989? Mexico
LGBT Rights
Does the government of Bangladesh have any plans to de-criminalize homosexuality by abolishing section 377 of the Penal Code? UK
Independence of NHRC

What further steps does the Government of Bangladesh undertake in order to provide the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh with full independence and to help the Commission to obtain A-status and to comply fully with the Paris Principles? Germany

Complying with International Standards, Treaties and Procedures
  • Ireland understands that Bangladesh has initated work in cooperation with UNDP to strengthen reporting capacity to the Treaty Bodies. Ireland would be grateful for information on when Bangladesh plans to submit reports to the Human Rights Committee and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which were due some years ago? 
  • ·Does Bangladesh have any plans to issue a standing invitation to the UN Special Procedures? Ireland
  •  How does the Government of Bangladesh intend to meet its reporting obligations under international treaty law? In particular, when does Bangladesh intend to submit its long over due reports to the CERD, the CESCR, the Human Rights Committee, the CAT, the CRPD, and the CMW? Germany
  •  Are there any plans by the Government of Bangladesh to extend a standing invitation to United Nations special procedures? If not, what obstacles remain in the way of such an invitation? Germany
  • What steps is Bangladesh taking to ensure the highest rule of law and human rights standards are being met when trying individuals for crimes under international law? Lichenstein
  • What steps has Bangladesh taken to ratify the Kampala amendments to the Rome Statute? Lichenstein
Health

How does the government intend to advance legal reforms that promote sexual and reproductive health and rights for all? Netherlands


International Crimes Tribunal
  • While commending the Bangladesh’s efforts to ensure accountability for grave crimes committed during its past, Liechtenstein is concerned about persistent reports of due process violations and allegations of partiality in the trials at the International Crimes Tribunal.
  •  What measures will be taken to ensure the fair trials to all defendants before the recently established Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal for crimes against humanity during the Liberation War of 1971?
Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord

We appreciate the importance expressed by the Government to the implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord. What measures have been taken to amend the Land Commission Act and to speed up land reform? Which steps will the Government of Bangladesh take to investigate credible reports of increasing violence against women in the CHT, especially regarding sexual assaults? What is being done in order to put an end to such violent acts? Norway


Right To Information  
While
we welcome the adoption of the Right to Information Act (RIA) and the establishment of the Information Commission (IC), we would like to know which steps the Government of Bangladesh is taking in order to make the Act known to its citizens. Further, as pointed out in para.17 of the National Report, the IC has a mandate to impose sanctions and to take measures to ensure that the RIA is complied with. Could you please elaborate on how this mandate has been followed up so far, including examples of sanctions applied?  Norway
 

 

Latest | Children in Custody of Indian Border Security Force »

March 24, 2013

ASK facilitated a Petition Signed by Concerned Citizens and letters have been sent to :

  • Tripura State and South Tripura State,
  •  Indian High Commission, 
  • Border Security Force, 
  • NHRC in India and Bangladesh,
  • Home Ministry, Government of Bangladesh

Indian Border Security Force (BSF)  were reported to have arrested six minors identified  as Shimul, aged 8, Sohel, aged  8, Nayan, aged 8, Nazma Akhter, aged 9, and Salma Akhter, aged 5. They were arrested  in the Parsuram-Belonia border at Feni, Bangladesh on Thursday, 21st March 2013. The children, reported to have been taken away by BSF while playing in their garden in North Baurthuma, have not been  returned to Bangladesh.  Instead the BSF has reportedly handed them over to the local police.

These arrests are clearly in violation of  the CRC and  are contrary to the mandate of  the border force.

 We  demand that adequate compensation be given to the children and their families for physical and psychological damage caused to them.   

The BSF and BGB need to negotiate a protocol to ensure that such arbitrary arrests do not take place and in particular to ensure safety and security of minor children living along the Indo Bangladesh border.

The children were reported to have been taken away by BSF while playing in their garden in North Baurthuma .

6 minors in BSF custody

Do children understand borders? Perhaps not.

In an unusually insensitive act of border policing, six Bangladeshi children have been taken away by the Indian Border Security Force from the Parsuram-Belonia border at Feni.

The children were taken on Thursday and have not yet been returned.

Locals say they are all below 10 years of age.

Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) officials say the children, taken away from near Border Pillar 2160/5, will be produced in an Indian court on Monday (Mar 25).

BGB Majumderhat company Commander Subedar Ruhul Amin has identified those taken away as Shimul, 8, Sohel, 8, Nayan, 8, Nazma Akhter, 9, and Salma Akhter, 5.

Locals and guardians said the children were taken away by the BSF while playing in a garden in north Baurthuma area, near the Indian border on Thursday.

The BSF told the BGB at a flag meeting that the children have been handed over to the local police.

They are currently lodged at a children’s home in Udaipur, administrative headquarters of South Tripura district. On Mar 25, they will be produced at a local court, Amin said.

Meanwhile

No excuse for border killing: Dipu Moni [Foreign Minister]
Child Parliament concerned over killing of children by BSF
The Financial Express Bangladesh

Foreign Minister (FM) Dipu Moni on Saturday said there can be no excuse for the killing of Bangladeshi people by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) along the border of the two countries, reports UNB.

The FM also stressed that the Indian government must take immediate measures to bring the border killing to zero level and give proper direction to BSF in this connection.

Dipu Moni said this in response to a starred question raised during the 11th session of the ‘Child Parliament 2013′.

Sabbir Ahmed Himu, a Child Parliament member from Brahmanbaria, questioned what measures the government has taken to stop the regular killing of Bangladeshi citizens, particularly children, by the BSF across the border.

In most cases, the children of border areas crossing the borderline ‘accidentally’ become the victim of BSF gunfire, he said, adding that how the children can be expected to be fully aware of the borderline.

Supplementing Himu’s question, Sohana Afroz of Panchagarh said the BSF troops are also used to firing shots on children even though they unknowingly step into ‘no-man’s land’.

Shahriar Zaman of Meherpur also brought in examples of such killings, including the killings of Abdur Rahim of Naogaon, Sumi of Kurigram and Felani of Phulbari, in support of the question raised at the Child Parliament.

In her response, Dipu Moni said: "We’ve already asked the Indian government to give proper direction to the BSF…they must stop firing. Even if they fire, they must at least ensure that it doesn’t cause death."

The BSF must find out alternatives to firing at people to stop the alleged illegal border crossing, she said, adding that ‘there can be no excuse for any killing’.

Chaired by Child Parliament Speaker SM Shahriar Sifat, the 11th session of the Parliament was participated by 84 children representatives from 64 districts.

They discussed issues of child rights in the country, based on the Child-led Alternative Report on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Opening of Creche At ASK office to Help the Working Mothers |19 March 2013 »

March 19, 2013

ASK Women celebrate the opening of the baby care facility
which was opened by Executive Director Sultana Kamal, see livestream below!

Garment Sector News »

March 10, 2013

Garment Sector - Over 700 dead in 22 years

AT LEAST 700 workers have been killed in factory fire and building collapse in the readymade garments sector in the past 22 years, according to the statistics of several labour organisations and the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies. Yet, so far, not a single person has been brought to justice, let alone punished.
The Sammilita Garments Saramik Federation statistics show that some 530 workers died in 30 fire incidents in several RMG factories between 1990 and 2013. At least 150 workers also died in several incidents including building collapse, said Nazma Akter, president of the federation. 

However, the families of most fire victims did not receive any compensation, nor did the government nor the buyers nor the owners help the injured workers, says the federation’s report.

A few fire victims received compensation ranging from Tk 1,000 to Tk 29,000 between 1990 and 2000, the report adds.

According to a BILS report, from 1990 to 2013, 439 workers died in 15 major fire incidents in several RMG factories.
The report is based on major fire incidents and may not contain the actual number of deaths, says a BILS official.
The BILS official also says the report is based on the statistics of the government and the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

The BGMEA statistics show that 387 workers were killed in factory fires from 1990 to 2012.
Labour leaders, however, reject the BGMEA statistics and claim that the number of deaths from factory fires and other incidents will be close to 1,000.

In the wake of the Tazreen fire, on November 26, 2012, the High Court issued a rule nisi on the government, the BGMEA and the Tazreen authorities, in response to a writ petition by the Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust, Ain o Salish Kendra and Nijera Kori, asking them to show as to why they should not be directed to prosecute and punish the people responsible for the fire. 

The court also directed the government to explain what steps it has taken to implement the court’s directives issued in 2001 to ensure safety and security of garment workers and to form an inspection committee to monitor whether the garments authorities abide by the relevant laws in running their factories.

The court also directed the BGMEA and Tazreen management to submit report within two months on whether the authorities of the factories comply with the relevant laws to run those, and what steps they have taken to save the workers from fires and to state in detail what steps have been taken regarding compensations for the workers killed and injured.

Samiul Islam, a lawyer of ASK, says only Tazreen Fashions authority has so far submitted its reports to the court on compensation while the government and the BGMEA are yet to submit their answer.
Workers leaders say, after all these incidents, many probe committees have been formed but no one has been punished or even identified as responsible for those incidents. In most cases, findings of the probe committees have not been published.

Though the report of BGMEA probe committee on Tazreen Fashions fire was published but it was an attempt to save the owner, they alleged.

Taslima Lima, convenor of Garments Sramik Sanghati, says the culture of impunity is the main reason behind frequent fire and other incidents in the RMG sector.

Not a single factory owner has so far been arrested for negligence except Smart Export Garments.

Taslima believes the owners of Smart Export were arrested as they were not member of the BGMEA.

On the other hand, she says, the owner of Tazreen Fasions has not yet been arrested as he is a BGMEA member.

The BGMEA vice-president, Md Siddiqur Rahman, dismisses such claims and claims that the association has not put any pressure on the government to not arrest the Tazreen owners.

Apart from the fire at Tazreen Fashions on November 24, 2012, which left at least 112 people killed, factory fire also killed 8 at Smart Export Garments on January 26, 51 workers at Garib and Garib, Matrix Sweater and Ha-Meem Group in 2010, 65 at Chitagong KTS composite textile mills in 2006, 20 at Narayanganj Sun Kniting in 2005, 53 at Chowdhury Knitwear Ltd in Narshingdi in 2000, 22 at Mirpur Rahman & Rahman Apparels in 1997, 27 at Mirpur Tamanna Garments in 1997, 10 at Ibrahimpur Lusaka Apparels in 1995, 14 at Pallabi Suntex Ltd in 1996, 14 at Tahidul Garments in 1996, 26 at Kafrul Capital Garments in 2001 and 27 at Mirpur Sareka Garments in 1990.
Apart from these fire incidents, more than one hundred workers were killed in building collapse at Savar Spectrum Sweaters Ltd in 2005, says Mahbubur Rahman Ismail, president of the Bangladesh Textile-Garments Workers Federation. 

The BGMEA statistics, however, shows that 64 workers were killed in the building collapse.        
Ismail adds that no one can say how many people actually got killed at Spectrum Sweaters Ltd or at Tazreen Fashions at Ashulia.

Terming the task force formed by BGMEA following the Tazreen blaze eyewash, Ismail says that, despite frequent fire incidents, owners are yet to take any pragmatic initiatives in the sector.

He says the fire incident at Mirpur Sareka Garments in 1990 was the first tragic incident in the sector. The owner of the factory was burnt to death along with workers as the exit gate was locked and the gateman fled in panic, he adds.

Workers are losing faith in the law enforcement system and the judiciary due to the culture of impunity, says Montu Gosh, president of the Bangladesh Garments Workers Trade Union Centre.

Understanding Genocide - Ashfaqar Rahman »

March 10, 2013

Understanding genocide

It is acknowledged that genocide took place in 1971 at the time of the creation of Bangladesh. However, there are a miniscule few who are still not ready to agree after 41 years that it did take place. They think that it was political trouble between the Bengali majority and the ruling clique in Pakistan that led to unnecessary loss of lives. They also think that the number of persons killed or victimised is highly exaggerated. A thorough review of the figures quoted needs to be done in order to determine whether the events in 1971 could be termed as genocide.
One of the ways to determine this is to look at history and to compare the number of dead as well as those who were persecuted in various places around the world, and which had been characterised as genocide, and compare that with what happened in Bangladesh. Another way is to understand the nature and intent of the perpetrators of genocide and see whether one can recognise similar pattern of behavior when genocide was committed in Bangladesh.
But before we do all that, it may be appropriate to understand what the word genocide means. In 1944, a Polish lawyer called Raphael Lemkin first coined this term. According to him, genocide is “the deliberate and systematic destruction in whole or part of an ethnic, racial, religious or national group.”
The UN then crafted a Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG). This international convention laid down certain acts which constitute genocide. Thus the killing of members of a group, or causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of this group, or even deliberately  inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or part, were genocide. It did not end there. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group and forcibly transferring children of a group to another group was part of the act of genocide.
History is replete with instances of genocide. It is seen that wherever there are people who have something less common with another group, then the aliens are always defined as something less than human. The argument is put forward that “they should be eliminated in order that we may live.”
In the first half of the First Millennium the very first genocide took place when Assyrians went for root and branch elimination of the conquered people. In the 5th century, when the Peloponnesian War was on, the Athenians destroyed Melos and committed genocide on the people of Melos. The Old Testament records the genocide of the Amalekites and the Midinites. In the 13th century the Mongols under Genghis Khan ran amok and killed entire nations.
In 1890, the then US military massacred Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee and started one of the first genocides in the American continent. They destroyed the aboriginal people in a “string of genocide campaigns” which became the most massive acts of genocide in history of the world. This genocide is also likened with that in Australia where the aboriginal population was brutally eliminated, and without any compunction. Genocide in course of time also occurred in German South West Africa (now Namibia) between 1904 and 1907. The Ottoman Turks, it is alleged, resorted to wiping out Armenians during their rule. But this is seriously challenged.
In modern times, one of the worst genocides was the killing of six million Jews in Europe by the German Nazis before and during the Second World War. This was a large-scale programme of extermination, planned and executed by the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Many call this genocide as “Holocaust” (meaning whole burnt).
In the post World War II period, Bangladesh saw one of the worst genocides take place in history. About 3 million Bengalis were killed and about three hundred thousand women were raped. Ten million people left their country temporarily and went to neighbouring India to escape the atrocities.
Rummel, a well known chronicler of genocide, narrates what took place in Bangladesh in his book Statistics of Domicide: Genocide and Mass murder since 1900. He says that “in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) General Mohammed Yahya Khan and his top generals planned to murder its Bengali intellectual, cultural and political elite.”
They planned to indiscriminately eliminate hundreds of thousands of Hindus and drive the rest to India. They also planned to destroy the economic base to ensure that it would be subordinate to West Pakistan for at least a generation to come. The Guinness Book of Records lists it as one of the top five genocides in the 20th century.
There are now many studies on the genesis, nature and consequences of genocide. Some scholars have identified the various stages which events go through to ultimately qualify as genocide.
Genocide is usually a process. It develops in eight stages. At each stage preventive measures can stop it. The process is, however, not linear. Later stages can be preceded by earlier stages. But all stages continue to operate.

The main features of each of the eight stages are:

1.    Classification: This is when genocide planners distinguish people into “us and them;”
2.     Symbolisation: They start to name people as “Jews” or “Gypsies” or “Bengalis.” The victims are identified by the colour of their skin, dress or language;
3.    Dehumanisation: Victims are equated with animals, diseases, vermin, etc;
4.    Organisation: Genocide is organised by the state that also use militias. The organisation can be informal and it can be decentralised;
5.    Polarisation: Hate groups incite polarisation and drive groups of population apart;
6.    Preparation: Victims are identified and separated because of their ethnic identity. Death lists are drawn up;
7.    Extermination: Mass killings start. The killers do not consider their victims as fully human;
8.    Denial: This follows the genocide.

It is an indicator of further genocidal massacre. The killers hide the evidence.The right to express oneself, which is known as the freedom of speech, is considered a human right. Yet that freedom is used to incite violence and hatred.

In February 1971 General Yayha, in order to eradicate the threat that he thought the Bengalis posed, said: “Kill three million of them and the rest will eat out of our hands” (Robert Payne, Massacre, 1972, Page 50). The genocide against the Bengalis proceeded in a classic fashion.

The targets, according to Antony Mascarenhas, were (i) the Bengali military men and the para military; (ii) Hindus  (iii) office bearers of the Awami League; (iv) students; (v) Bengali intellectuals. The then Pakistan government had three aims. First, the Bengalis have proved themselves unreliable. They must be ruled by West Pakistanis. Second, the Bengalis will have to be reeducated along proper Islamic lines. Third, when the Hindus have been eliminated their assets will be used to win over the underprivileged Muslim middle class. Thus this was a premeditated and engineered mass killing. The genocide that started on March 25, 1971 lasted for 267 days. The death toll, according to Rummel, was incredible. This was one regime which was more lethal than that of the Soviet Union, China or Japan under the military.

So when we try to compare genocide with unfortunate killings during political disturbances we are indeed challenging history.

The writer is a former Ambassador and a regular commentator on contemporary matters.
E-mail: ashfaque303@gmail.com

Invitation to Urgent Open Discussion on Violence - 04 MARCH 2013 »

March 3, 2013

PRESS CONFERENCE  Liberation War Museum, Shegun Bagecha          11am  Monday 4th March 2013

This urgent press conference is being held by concerned citizens.

People are passing their days with intense fear and uncertainty due to the culture of political violence and recent attacks since the War Crimes Verdict.

Eminent citizens such as educationalist Anisur Zaman, Writer, kamal Lohani, Dr Sarwar Ali, Dr Shahdi Malik, Freedom Fighter Tariq Ali, Dr Iftekurzzaman and Professor MM Akash and various members of human rights organisations, social and cultural institutions invite you to this open discussion which concerns people from all spheres of society.

From this open discussion, a guideline will be declared for the days ahead on behalf of the concerned citizens to raise their voices on the attacks and terrorism.

ASK Exclusive| NHRC is in Critical Juncture of Hype versus Real Action »

February 19, 2013

This report is regarding the National Human Rights Commission in Bangladesh,

Foreword

Hameeda Hossain, Chairperson of Ain o Salish Kendro (ASK)

This report entitled ‘National Human Rights Commission is in Critical Juncture of Hype versus Real Action’ forms a chapter in the 2012 Annual Report on the Performance and Establishment of National Human Rights Institutions in Asia, which is published annually by The Asian NGO Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI), a network of 30 organizations in 17 countries.

The Report seeks to evaluate the compliance of the national institution with the Paris Principles. Pursuant to consistently strong demands from citizen groups, and support from the UN for setting up of such an organization since 1996, the NHRC of Bangladesh was finally formed as a statutory body in 2009. It was expected to work for the prevention, promotion and realisation of human rights by incorporating strategies to create awareness of rights, as well as to address their violations by both state and non state actors.

In its first two formative years, the organization has included seven persons, two full time and five voluntary, four of the seven being women. Its staffing strength has not enabled it to carry out extensive investigation and monitoring of the human rights violations.

We need to keep this in mind in evaluating its mandate and its performance over the last two years since its formation.

This report prepared jointly by ASK and the Human Rights Forum provides a brief assessment of the human rights situation in Bangladesh in 2011, and identifies how the  NHRC addresses the violations of human rights and the weakness in its mandate which reduces the effectiveness of its strategies. It identifies developments in human rights legislation and policy framework but also draws attention to the limitations of the NHRC in addressing violations of human rights by law enforcement agencies, lack of compliance by the executive agencies with judicial decisions.

The critical assessment of the role of the NHRC in specific cases of violations or institutional weaknesses informs us of the need for broadening the mandate of the institution, making it less dependent upon government officials, strengthening its own capacity through independent recruitment and budgetary support. At the same time the recommendations in the report call for specific actions by both the government and the NHRC to enable the institution to fulfill its mandate in compliance with the Paris Principles so as to move forward in establishing the practice of human rights in the country.

We hope that this institutional review in Bangla and English will assist the NHRC to deepen its strategies for promoting human rights, and to call for a more independent mandate in preventing abuses of human rights.

We are grateful to Sultana Kamal and Zakir Hossain for preparation of this report. We welcome any feedback from the NHRC and other readers as this will enable us to further refine and improve our report.


This report has originally written as the Bangladesh Country Chapter for the
Asian NGO Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI) Report 2012
by the Media and International Advocacy Unit of Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK).

ASK Guest Opinion | Bina D'Costa »

February 19, 2013

Of trials and errors: International vs. national — challenges and opportunities

February 17, 2013

I want to add one point regarding the climate around the war crimes trials. There will be accusations that this is a politicised process – indeed there already are such accusations. Persuasive rebuttal of this charge will depend not only on the impartiality and due process of the war crimes trials themselves, but also on the extent to which the general climate prevailing in Bangladesh is seen as one of tolerance of political differences, past and present, consistent with principles of pluralism, multi-party democracy and respect for the role of a free civil society. And just as continuing impunity for past crimes undermines respect for rule of law in the present, so too impunity for human rights violations today will undermine the credibility of the process of justice for the crimes of the past.

Ian Martin. ‘Forty Years On: Memory and Justice’, Anniversary Lecture, Liberation War Museum, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 22 March 2011

Responding to sustained popular demand, one of the promises of the AL during its election campaign in late 2008 was to bring to justice those responsible for the war crimes committed during the liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971.  There were some delays in implementing this promise during its first year in government.

The Law Commission initiated a consultation process in early 2009 in which various law faculties and prominent law firms, including Abdur Razzak’s firm were requested to provide comments to review the 1973 Act for necessary amendments. While not many experts responded to the call, following these consultations, the Act was subsequently amended in July 2009

(The consultation report can be found online at http://www.lawcommissionbangladesh.org/reports/87.pdf ).

In 2009, the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) also asked the UN for technical assistance. However, there is some confusion about the process and the outcome. Some experts (name withheld for confidentiality reasons) maintain that the UN failed to respond and had subsequently abandoned the process due to Pakistan’s strong lobbying at the UN with substantial behind the scene support from campaigners in the US and France (see Wikileaks for these communications).

On the other hand, reports from the media and various international organisations indicate that members of the international community reached out to assist in ensuring a fair, domestic trial process. By international community, throughout the essay I refer to the UN; state parties such as the US, UK, Australia and those who have their own transitional justice mechanisms such as Cambodia, East Timor, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Liberia; supranational and intergovernmental institutions such as the European Union; organisations and networks such as the Human Rights Watch-HRW, Amnesty International-AI; and prominent individuals of the global civil society.

Communication from the UN for example, since mid 2009 addressed to the GoB (the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs) noted concerns about the provision of death penalty, the full guarantees of the right to a fair trial and the protection of victims and witnesses. Offers were also made by the UN to provide technical and financial support to a Bangladesh technical mission to visit countries and institutions with applicable experience, critical information, including lessons on procedure for national war crimes trials, and alternative forms of justice as well as information.

In part, due to highly organised lobbying from the Defence strategists and also in part due to a lack of transparency by the GoB in explaining how the alleged war criminals were detained, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on 23 November, 2011 adopted opinions that ‘the deprivation of liberty of Motiur Rahman Nizami, Abdul Quader Molla, Mohammad Kamaruzzaman, Ali Hasan Mohammed Mujahid, Allama Delewar Hossain Sayedee and Salhuddin Quader Chowdhury is arbitrary and constitutes a breach of article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, falling into category III of the categories applicable to the cases submitted to the Working Group’ (UN General Assembly, HRC/WGAD/2011/66).

Both the Special Rapporteurs on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers and on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances sent urgent appeals, including those on 3 October 2012, 16 November 2012 and 5 February 2013 asking for clarifications with regard to the proceedings of the ICT. To date, there has been no formal response from the GoB.

ICTBD4_thumbContrary to public opinion in Bangladesh that the international community has been indifferent to this renewed call for justice, these appeals recognised victims’ rights to justice. Unfortunately, the GoB gave signals that were generally interpreted, as ‘this is our domestic process, stay out of our business’.

Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, following the first verdict stated, ‘It needs to be clarified that this justice process was never part of any intervention by the international community, nor a result of any international compromise, unlike most justice initiatives of its kind that have taken place in the international arena’ (Opening Statement by Hon’ble Foreign Minister at the Diplomatic Briefing on the Maiden ICT Judgment, 24 January 2013, available at bangladeshwarcrimes.blogspot.ch).

If this is indeed how the government feels then why is the anxiety and disappointment when the international community instead of endorsing, is commenting negatively on the trials? If these are indeed fair trials, what is wrong with ensuring transparency and inviting consultations at various steps?

This is a critical moment in Bangladesh’s political and legal history. The Bangladesh war crimes trials could be used as examples to nurture the reform of the judiciary and curb present-day impunity. The International Crimes Tribunal’s (ICT) importance in particular is tremendous in Bangladesh’s criminal justice system. It could provide exemplary guidance that would be followed in the future justice processes. The best practices that emerge from the ICT could be employed to improve the mechanisms of the domestic courts for decades to come.  Instead of sending signals of indifference to the international community, it is crucial to have an exchange of ideas and experiences.

* * *

I would like to briefly add that the international community is not necessarily non-partisan in their policies, reporting and actions.  For example, it has been well established that the northern development institutions (such as the NGOs, donors, universities and so on) have an unequal relationship with their Southern ‘aid’ partners (see for example, ‘the pornography of poverty’ Betty Plewes and Rieky Stuart, 2006).  Bulk of the criticism of the international human rights reports comes from regimes often at the receiving end of the ‘damaging’ reports.  Usually regimes are the targets of political advocacy in many countries and as such activists welcome international attention to their causes. Activists may have problems with parts of these reports but don’t prefer to publicly challenge the moral/normative high grounds of human rights, and, there is a general belief that the international human rights organisations are their allies in their particular political struggles.  Taking cue from this ground reality, fewer questions have been asked by analysts/academics about biases that remain within human rights organisations such as the HRW and the AI.

In fact, in Bangladesh, experts, practitioners and activists were equally appreciative of previous HRW and AI’s various coverage of torture, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, fatwa, indigenous rights and women’s rights despite those causing embarrassment to various governments.

Some of the criticisms that were raised in the international media against the HRW include solicitation of funds from influential individuals in Saudi Arabia, its reporting of the Arab-Israeli conflict which some interpret as excessively anti-Israeli, fewer reports on the extremist groups in the Middle East, and its inaccurate reporting in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Haiti, Venezuela and Honduras.   Public criticisms about the AI include anti-Semitic comments from its staff, support for anti-women NGOs in Afghanistan, inaccurate reporting of the 1991 Gulf war and so on. Both organisations were criticised for close alliance with the US and the UK foreign policy priorities at various times.

The HRW, AI, International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) and International Bar Association (IBA) reports and workshops on the ICT proceedings have met with disapproval by many observers from Bangladesh and their factual inaccuracies have been pointed out (for various critiques see International Crimes Strategy Forum media archive).

By now it is also public knowledge that the defence lobby (some of the known campaigns are organised by Toby Cadman, John Cammegh, and Cassidy and Associates in the US) is very active in the international circles, trying to seek allies and providing an account of the revisionist history to the international community.

* * *

In this context of what I have explained above, why is there no visible/proactive step taken by the GoB to sensitise the international community? Why is the international community repeatedly saying that this is a political witch-hunt when in many other war crimes trials many of these institutions and individuals are actively supporting the courts?

bangladesh-asks-apologyWhy is the international media so negative and publishing damaging reports without checking facts that are abundant in official records and in public memory in Bangladesh? If they are indeed checking facts, what are their sources? Who are the authors of these reports? Who are the legal experts?

How is it that the legal/human rights community and the media become the ‘experts’ of justice and not the victims who have experienced it? Is there a calculated campaign of genocide denial which has unknown sources of funds or is it a failure in Bangladesh’s part for not being able to provide substantial evidence to counter these arguments? Or both?

It is a constitutional responsibility of the GoB to ensure a fair trial. In her statement noted above, the Foreign Minister claimed that Bangladesh is succeeding in doing so. On the contrary, the press release with comments from two Special Rapporteurs issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) noted ‘Given the historic importance of these trials and the possible application of the death penalty, it is vitally important that all defendants before the Tribunal receive a fair trial… The Tribunal is an important platform to address serious crimes from the past, which makes it all the more important that it respects the basic elements of fair trial and due process’ (ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=12972&LangID=E).

Why is there a perception at the international level that the government is not being able to ensure a fair trial? Is there a concern internally that if fair trials were carried out then they wouldn’t deliver the desired outcome? Or is it the issue that there is not enough hard evidence to provide to the Court?

As I will explain in the last part of this essay, criminal prosecutions always require a higher burden of proof. If there is proof then why has not the prosecution team successfully manage to convince legal experts beyond any doubt that these men are guilty as charged?

I have noted in the first part of this essay (bdnews24.com, December 16, 2012) S R Pal and Serajul Haque were appointed as chief prosecutors in 1972. Both were very prominent, well respected lawyers with knowledge of international criminal law of that time. What are the qualifications of the current prosecution team?

Those who propose that the US and Israel are violating human rights, unlawfully killing opponents with drones and still have death penalty must also ask, why should we consider these bad practices always?

We really need to ask these uncomfortable questions. And we need the answers before too long.

Some could say, these questions are being asked in close-knit circles, but an open process could also show to what extent the prejudice of the international community is playing a role here and how that prejudice has been formed in the international space.  The global human rights community has been an established friend in difficult circumstances. Now why are some of them turning their back on us?  Simply proclaiming that these institutions do not criticise western/northern bad practices and only target southern states that they could pick on is not enough in this globalised world. Universal norms and values are equally important as culturally diverse practices and traditions.

* * *

Gono Adalat, 1992

Gono Adalat, 1992

The civil society from Bangladesh, in particular those who have substantial knowledge of the crimes committed in 1971 could be proactive and submit their own reports to the UN agencies. Without naming names, we have groups, which represent victims and survivors of 1971. These groups could provide reports with evidence of the crimes committed in 1971 to sensitise the international community.  Outreach and communication is critical.

The ICT in particular could invite amicus curiae (’friends of the court’) to provide expert briefs on various legal/judicial matters, such as what are some of the concerns of the international community.

In the ECCC (Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia), an amicus curiae was provided for the Judicial Investigation opened against Kaing Guek Eav (alias ‘Duch’).  In addition, the OHCHR submitted to the Supreme Court of Cambodia in June 2008 amicus curiae brief in relation to the men convicted of murdering trade union leader Chea Vichea.

Another example that comes to mind is Guatemala. In 2003, relatives of some of the disappeared filed a complaint against a former civilian army collaborator, Felipe Cusanero Coj, claiming he was responsible for the disappearance of six farmers in the early 1980s.The issue went to the Guatemalan Constitutional Court, where the OHCHR submitted a brief as amicus curiae in 2009. It drew the Court’s attention to the position under international and regional human rights law, which sets out Guatemala’s international obligations to investigate, try and punish the perpetrators of human rights violations.

In order to ensure transparency and accountability, human rights organisations could also be asked to submit their briefs.  In this way, instead of alienating the international community, the ICT could engage them.  Experts such as Geoffrey Robertson QC, Richard J Rogers and Ahmed Ziauddin (but note, in this last case, it is compounded by the ICT-2 showcause notice following the Skype scandal) could be formally requested to provide their amicus briefs. This would create a culture of transparency and would give more credibility to the ICT process.

There is a political culture in Bangladesh that becomes immediately defensive in the face of criticism. We have seen that in the Padma Bridge corruption case and now the country will pay a heavy price (literally) for this.   There is no point in acting in a defensive manner when it comes to the war crimes trial that is taking us back to the question of Bangladesh’s sovereignty. The politics of the blame game between national and international is neither wise nor strategic. This crucial moment in history will not come back to us. We need to reach out to the international community and provide our version of the narrative-and that has to be victim/survivor centred, responsive and responsible.

And I would like to remind those who had the patience to read this whole essay, Bangladeshi analysts must carry out systematic and quantitative investigation of lives lost and other grave sacrifices made throughout the war. Those of us who specialises in quantitative analyses must step up to this task.        

– To be continued

(This article is the second installment of a three-part write-up. The first part ‘The scars of war, victory and justice’ was published on December 16.)

——————————–
Bina D’Costa is the author of Nationbuilding, Gender and War Crimes in South Asia.

ASK Condolence | Rajib Haider - Blogger from Shahbag Protest »

February 19, 2013


Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) expresses its deepest condolence and grave condemnation on the murder of the Blogger and architect Ahmed Rajib Haider at Mirpur in the Capital.

On the night of 15 February 2013, when Rajib was returning from the mass protest of Shahbagh, some miscreants attacked him and brutally stabbed him, leaving two slits to the throat. His body was found in front of home at Palashnagar in Mirpur. Rajib actively expressed action against the Jamaat, calling for Boycott of Jamaat sponsored banks and institutions. He was one of the co-ordinators at the forefront of the Shahbagh movement.

It has been noted in several sources that, after the death of Rajib, opponents have started propaganda against him, he was labeled as an anti-muslim due to his religious preference. We strongly condemn this type of propaganda, this needs further investigation.

A young, active man should not have been murdered because of his religious views. We urge to the law enforcing agencies to take immediate actions to investigate, arrest and bring the culprits under judicial process.

ASK also demands exemplary punishment of the perpetrators. Before this incident, same kind of attack had also been attempted on another blogger named Asif Mohiuddin in Dhaka.  ASK observes with caution that this kind of assassination has been a regular phenomenon since 1971, if we fail to stop these, many strong voices will be impeded.


Press Statement Issued  in Bengali



ASK Concern | Use of Pepper Spray to Disperse Protestors »

February 3, 2013

ASK’s grave concern and condemns over the Government’s heavy-handedness to restrain teachers during their demonstration

Since 7 January 2013 hundreds of teachers and employees of non-governmental schools, colleges and technical educational institutions have been demonstrating for the inclusion of their education institutes in the monthly payment order (MPO) list. From the start, the Government have taken a strong position to stop the demonstration.

Instead of initiating dialogue with the teachers to meet their grievance, law enforcement agencies used force on the peaceful demonstration of teachers, teargas, batons, water canon and pepper spray were utilised to disperse them. Many teachers and staffs were injured. A press release issued by the teachers claimed that a teacher named Sikandar Ali, who sustained injuries during the demonstrations on January 10, died in Patuakhali early on 15 January 2013.

 

Teachers serve the future generations as '’builders of the nation'’. This type of treatment is not acceptable in any way. Every citizen has the rights to freedom of opinion and expression and also has the rights to freedom of assembly and association. Peaceful practice of these rights makes democracy more effective. ASK think that the resistance from police also violated the right of the teachers to express their views in a democratic way. ASK also demands that, Government should refrain from using force and should take an initiative immediately to have a dialogue with the teachers.Using toxic gas to disperse peaceful protesters.

 

Using a toxic gas to disperse peaceful protesters

These type of gases are harmful for the human body. It can cause occasional death. Recently these gases have been used during teachers demonstrations and many of them have been seriously injured.

It has been alleged that one of the injured teachers died after returning home.

It is the civil and political rights of every citizen to demonstrate peacefully for the fulfillment of their demands.  This kind of toxic gas never used any civilized country to oppress any demonstration. If law-enforcing agencies need to find alternative and peaceful ways to contain protest which becomes dangerous but to use this toxic gas to disperse protestors is unacceptable. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure citizens can partake in peaceful demonstration and basic security.

ASK demand that the Government should take immediate steps to stop using this toxic gas by considering the opinion of experts and give instruction to law enforcing agency to take peaceful action to stop any disorder in the movement.

BD News 24 - Legal Notice to Stop Pepper Spray

BD News 24 - ‘Pepper Spray Use instead of Baton Use’

In November 2011 Californian Police used pepper spray against students and Alumni of University of California, Davis who were protesting tuition fees. The police man in the video (see link or picture) was caught spraying on non violent demonstrators.

Pepper-sprayed UC Davis students awarded $1 million in compensation

26 September 2012 RT News

College students and alumni that were injured when a police officer at the University of California, Davis, discharged military-grade pepper-spray in their face during a peaceful protest last year will split a settlement of roughly $1,000,000.

Members of the UC Regents board agreed earlier this month on a settlement to be split among the 21 demonstrators targeted by a campus cop since removed from the force, but the final amount was not disclosed until now. The Sacramento Bee reports on Wednesday that the board had decided behind closed doors on a figure of roughly $1 million.

"We did an injustice to our students that day at Davis, and some amount of recompense is appropriate,” UC Davis student regent Jonathan Stein told the Los Angeles Times after their meeting earlier this month. “More importantly, it’s time for us as an institution to publicly acknowledge that’s not the way we should treat our students; we were wrong, and we are moving forward.”

The terms of the settlement were unsealed in federal court Wednesday morning and, assuming the appropriate papers are authorized by a federal judge, each of the 21 plaintiffs in the case are expected to receive $30,000, totaling $630,000 in all. Additional plaintiffs are invited to come forward and file claims in order to collect from a pool of $100,000 set aside for a class action suit, and $250,000 will be handed to the attorneys who handled the case.

Lt. John Pike, the officer who injured the protesters during a peaceful demonstration that was caught on tape and took the Internet by storm, was placed on paid administrative leave for several months after the November 18, 2011 sit-in on the Davis campus. Student and alumni had gathered at the school to protest rising tuition fees.

The internal affairs investigation alone into Lt. Pike’s actions cost the university $230,256.73, the Bee reports.

Detail and Background on Incident 

Video of Incident

Raped’ schoolgirl dies after 11 days »

February 2, 2013

Raped’ schoolgirl dies after 11 days

A teenage ‘rape victim’ died at the Rangpur Medical College and Hospital (RMCH) on Friday after fighting for life for the past 11 days, police said.
The 14-year-old girl from the Paschim Parul Jolaparha village of Parul union in Pirgachha upazila was an eighth-grade student of the Deuti Rafikul Islam Girls’ High School.

Officer-in-Charge of Pirgachha Police Station Bazlur Rashid told reporters that Lebu Mian, son of Saiful Islam of the same village abducted the adolescent from in front of her house on Jan 20 night, took her to a nearby solitary place, raped and left her there.

Later, the local villagers rescued the victim and admitted her to a local hospital.

When the matter was disclosed, the victim set herself on fire on Jan 22 to escape from the social disgrace and shame.

She was critically burnt and taken to the RMCH.

The victim’s family filed a case by this time in this connection with the Pirgachha Police accusing the alleged rapist.

OC Bazlur Rashid said that they were trying to arrest the culprit.

Situation of Child Rights in Bangladesh | January 2013 »

January 29, 2013

UPR REPORT | Situation of Child Rights In Bangladesh

The report can be dowloaded by Clicking the link.

ASK are please to launch this long awaited report online,

This report has been prepared by the Child Rights Governance Assembly (CRGA), a civil society advocacy network of 17 organisations including youth and child organisations. CRGA has submitted this report to the office of the high commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) as part of its engagement with the Universal Periodic review (UPR) process undertaken by the UN Human Rights Council


CRGA sincerely acknowledges the role of the Child Rights Unit of  
Ain o Salish Kendra to coordinate the preparation and publication
of the report and the consultancy support provided by Mr. Sayeed
Ahmad, Steering Committee Member of Human Rights Forum,
Bangladesh for writing this report.

Opening of Wall Magazine Festival | 16 January 2013 | Video & Live Streams »

January 16, 2013

Please see video links below for the individual speeches recorded live at the event 3pm, 16th January 2013

Speakers :

Introduction - Hitto Zahidul Alam
Humayan Kabir
Motahar Akand - Wall Magazine Committee
Shahin Reza Noor
Hameeda Hossain
Professor Sirajul Islam Choudhary



Please do come to appreciate the artwork for the next two days, it is not just about the celebrities.

More transparency and less control needed in Bangladesh’s foreign donations bill »

December 11, 2012

 International Mission on NGO Law

Mandip Tiwana from CIVICUS, Sayeed Ahmed from FORUM-ASIA and Vino Sampath Kumar from CHRI

 

DHAKA, 1 December 2012: There needs be more transparency and lesser control by the Government of Bangladesh as it seeks to bring in a new law to regulate foreign donations in the country said Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI).

The three international organisations met a wide spectrum of civil society, government representatives and the international community in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka as part of a civil society solidarity mission from 26 – 30 November, 2012. The mission was undertaken in the context of the proposed Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act and concerns about increasing restrictions on civil society freedoms in Bangladesh.

“While we welcome the fact that the Government of Bangladesh has consulted with civil society leaders on the proposed law, and made assurances that the concerns highlighted by them will be addressed,   we remain extremely worried if the bill when presented to Parliament will reflect this,” said Sayeed Ahmad of FORUM-ASIA. “It is critical that the government makes public, the most recent version of the proposed legislation at the earliest, particularly on the NGO Affairs Bureau’s website to allow civil society to fully engage with the process.”


The joint mission found that CSOs had a number of concerns about the proposed legislation.


These include:


(i) a cumbersome approval process for foreign funded projects which requires multiple clearances at various levels, 

(ii)  lack of clear time-frames within which approval for foreign funded projects will be granted,

(iii) non-specification of clear grounds to deny approval for foreign funded projects,

(iv) the requirement to renew registration for foreign funding every five years, in addition to the requirement to obtain approval for every project, and

(iv) excessive powers to inspect, monitor and assess the activities of the NGOs, and take control of their assets.


“The bill’s excessive focus on scrutiny and control of NGOs has a real potential to mar the independence of the civil society sector in Bangladesh,” said Mandeep Tiwana of CIVICUS. “The bill’s purport fails to recognise CSOs as independent development actors in their own right, in line with international standards and agreements on aid and development effectiveness.”


In December 2011, at the 4th High Level Forum on Aid and Development Effectiveness, a broad grouping of international donor and partner governments including the Government of Bangladesh committed under the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation to guarantee an “enabling environment” for civil society, consistent with agreed international rights, that maximises the contribution of CSOs to development.


Bangladesh is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which obligates states to uphold the freedoms of expression, association and assembly. The UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders passed by the UN General Assembly obligates governments to respect the right to “solicit, receive, utilize, resources for the purpose of protecting human rights (including the receipt of funds from abroad).”


“As an emerging democracy that takes pride in the vibrancy of its civil society sector, it is vital that Bangladesh takes the lead in replacing restrictive rules and regulations with laws that promote democratic freedoms and an enabling environment for civil society,” said Vinu Sampath Kumar of CHRI. “This will not only enhance Bangladesh’s reputation internationally, but also provide a blue-print for other countries to follow suit.”


The issue of civil society enabling environment and the proposed Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Act is also expected to be debated at the UN Human Rights Council, when Bangladesh undergoes the second cycle of its Universal Period Review in May 2013.

FORUM-ASIA, CIVICUS and CHRI urge the Government of Bangladesh to engage in a more participatory consultative process with regard to the proposed Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Act and other laws affecting civil society. Any new legislation on civil society should be based on the following principles: freedom of association; freedom of expression; the right to operate free from unwarranted state interference; the right to communicate and cooperate; the right to seek and secure funding; and the state duty to protect.


For further information contact:

  1. Sayeed Ahmad, FORUM-ASIA, sayeed@forum-asia.org, + 880 17111811  (Former Staff member of ASK 2002-2012)

Poor bargaining troubles migrant workers »

October 31, 2012

Sultana Kamal attended the ‘’ National consultation on UN High Level Dialogue on international Migration and Development'’ on 8th October 2012.


Bangladeshi workers face many difficulties abroad due to poor bargaining capacity of both the government and private organisations of the country, said noted rights activist Sultana Kamal yesterday.

“Due to a lack of this capacity, the workers are not contacted properly, their necessary documents are not preserved and salaries are not provided.

“Even during incidents of beheading of Bangladeshi workers abroad, we could not play a significant role regarding the matter,” she said.

Sultana Kamal was addressing as chief guest the inaugural session of a two-day “National Consultation on UN High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development” in the capital’s Cirdap Auditorium.

Four Bangladeshi partners of Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) organised the consultation. They are Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU), WARBE (Welfare Association for the Rights of Bangladeshi Emigrants) Development Foundation, Association for Community Development, and Ain O Salish Kendra.

Sultana Kamal, also a former adviser to a caretaker government, stressed the need for enhancing the bargaining capacity of countries sending the migrant workers to solve the difficulties the workers face abroad.

The government and civil society members should strengthen monitoring on the process of sending workers abroad to curb corruption in this sector, she said.

On developing the lives of migrant workers, she said development of their rights should be given top priority and taken very seriously for their overall development.

Delivering the welcome speech, RMMRU Coordinator Dr CR Abrar said the private sector, especially civil society members, have an important role to play for the development of migrants workers and protection of their rights.

The first “High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development” was held in 2006 and the second one is scheduled for September 2013.

Yesterday’s consultation was a preparatory meeting aimed at bringing together key migration and development organisations, networks, trade unions, media representatives and related government bodies to coordinate and jointly strategise efforts relating to the upcoming second dialogue.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General Shahidul Haque and MFA representative Tatcee Macabuag also spoke at the consultation.

Article: Daily Star

Hearing for Limon's Criminal Charge Postponed untill Jan 2013 »

September 17, 2012

On 16th September 2012, Limon’s legal team were advised that the hearing which was due for his Criminal Charge of possesing Arms was to be postponed yet again until January 2013, this is because the previous judge has changed and the current judge is at a junior level.

9th September 2012 - Limon Hossain Involved in Accident »

September 9, 2012


At approximately 8.00am this morning, as Limon Hossain was preparing to go to a private tuitioning class, he fell on a steep part of his journey and broke his artificial leg.


Limon’s circumstance has now become a major impediment to his daily routine and basic functions without being able to mobilise himself independently.

Previously the artificial leg was kindly arranged by the Centre for Development in Disability (CDD) in Bangladesh.  
Limon Hossain the Bangladesh based teenager who had to have his leg amputated due to being shot by the elite Bangladesh law enforcement agency accidentally, is still awaiting justice after 18 months, the next hearing for his false charges is on the 17th October 2012. 

Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) is going to celebrate the 75th birth anniversary of ASK founder & Executive Director Late Salma Sobhan on 13th August 2012 »

July 29, 2012

Salma Sobhan Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) plans to chalk out a colourful programme to celebrate the 75th birth anniversary of ASK founder & Executive Director Late Salma Sobhan (August 11, 1937 - December, 2003) on 13th August 2012, from 4.00pm to 7.00pm at CBCB Center, Asad Avenue, Dhaka.

ASK will arrange this programme, including discussion and cultural events. The working children of drop in center of ASK will be participating in a contest of painting on the eve of the day.

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