Bangladesh diplomat points out ‘inconsistencies’ in human rights discussion in US
Lovlu Ansar, New York Correspondent, bdnews24.com
Published: 2015-12-02 18:30:41.0 BdST Updated: 2015-12-02 18:30:41.0 BdST
A Bangladesh diplomat has pointed out several ‘inconsistencies’ following a panel discussion by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the US Congress over Bangladesh’s human-rights situation.
Tuesday’s ‘Briefing Series on the Shrinking Space for Civil Society’ at Washington DC’s Rayburn House Office Building was titled ‘Human Rights in Bangladesh’.
Bangladesh’s Deputy Chief of Mission Mahbub Hassan Saleh was not among the panellists, but he attended the session, which was open for all.
He pointed out the ‘ground realities’ after the panel discussion.
Slain writer-blogger Avijit Roy’s wife Rafida Ahmed Bonya was one of the panellists.
Referring to those who describe war criminals Salauddin Quader Chowhdury and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid as ‘opposition politicians’, she said the two were ‘enemies of humanity’.
There was no alternative other than trying them for the killings they orchestrated during the 1971 Liberation War, Bonya told the discussion.
The Bangladesh diplomat also pointed out that none of the discussants had mentioned the violence unleashed in the first three months of 2015 during the BNP-led alliance’s agitation.
He told the discussion that over a hundred people died then and properties were damaged, which was also a violation of human rights.
Saleh made it known that the issue of a death-row convict in the Bangabandhu assassination case taking refuge in the US should have come up in the panel discussions.
Human rights cannot be upheld without establishing the rule of law, said the Bangladesh diplomat.
One of the participants raised the issue of the Pakistani forces’ role in 1971, but none of the panellists addressed it.
Saleh said that the murder of 3 million people and rape of numerous women describe the role of the Pakistani forces and their local collaborators.
Apart from Bonya, the other panellists of the session were Senior Policy Analyst of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom Sahar Chaudhry, Director of Free Expression Programs at PEN American Center Karin Deutsch Karlekar and Director of the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center Bharath Gopalaswamy.
Bonya said she found the Bangladesh government’s role over arresting and trying those behind the killings of bloggers and publishers as ‘mysterious’.
Stern punishment for the perpetrators is imperative for ensuring a secular Bangladesh, said Bonya.
In February this year, unidentified assailants hacked Bonya and her husband Avijit Roy, both US citizens of Bangladeshi origin, at the Dhaka University campus.
Avijit died from profuse bleeding while Bonya lost a thumb in the attack.
Center for Inquiry's Office of Public Policy Director Michael De Dora moderated the session.
According to him, the human rights situation in Bangladesh has ‘quite deteriorated’ in the last two years, especially after the murder of five bloggers.
Attacks on ‘minorities’ have also gone up in recent times, De Dora said, adding the Bangladesh government needs to take these matters seriously to improve democratic institutions.
In his opening remarks, Congressman James McGovern said that the objectives of war crimes tribunal in Bangladesh were “sound”.
“But credible observers - including the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International - have criticised the trials as lacking fair trial and due process standards,” he added.
McGovern, a co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, said that Bangladesh had not heeded calls made by many, including US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Stephen Rapp, to halt executions “because of the due process issues”.
The Congressman also expressed concerns over the Bangladesh government’s response to ‘protests and dissent’.
“Opposition rallies have been restricted or broken up by state security forces, leading to mass arrests as well as deaths, while human rights defenders that document abuses have been threatened or detained and often assaulted themselves. There have been reports of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances.”
Speaking to bdnews24.com after the session, diplomat Saleh said that the discussants stressed ensuring freedom of expression to strengthen democracy.
“It was a brisk discussion. Calls have been made to work together to fight terrorism and Bangladesh is a credible partner of the US in this fight,” he said.
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