Michelle Bachelet has called on the Bangladesh government to create an independent mechanism to investigate allegations of enforced disappearances.
The United Nations high commissioner for human rights said on Wednesday she raised the issues in meetings with government ministers during her Dhaka visit. She also visited the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar during her four-day trip to Bangladesh.
Bachelet, a former president of Chile, is in the last few weeks of her term as the UN rights body chief, with no successor yet nominated. The 70-year old politician is due to leave office on Aug 31.
Bachelet has been serving since 2018 and has said she will refrain from seeking a second term for personal reasons.
In a press briefing in the capital, Bachelet said Bangladesh is party to all the core UN human rights treaties, except for the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance – which she called on the government to ratify.
“The Committees reviewing States’ compliance with these treaties have made important recommendations, along with recommendations made through the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review process and by various UN human rights independent experts.
"It is important to focus on implementation and an institutionalised system for follow up. These recommendations are important benchmarks, and help strengthen linkages between human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals,” she said.
According to her, various UN human rights mechanisms – including the UN Committee Against Torture, have been raising concerns for several years about allegations of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killing, torture, many of which have been attributed to the Rapid Action Battalion, and the lack of accountability for such violations.
“I raised my deep concern about these serious allegations with government ministers and highlighted the need for an impartial, independent and transparent investigation into these allegations accompanied by security sector reform.”
Bachelet met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, besides Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, Law Minister Anisul Huq, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan and Education Minister Dipu Moni. She also met the officials of the National Human Rights Commission and members of the civil society.
Ministers said they discussed allegations of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings, among other issues.
"There are continued, alarming allegations of both short-term and long-term enforced disappearances, and concerns about the lack of due process and judicial safeguards,” Bachelet said.
“Particularly given the long-standing frustrations at the lack of progress in investigations and other obstacles to justice, I encouraged the government to create an independent, specialised mechanism that works closely with victims, families and civil society to investigate allegations of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.”
The UN rights chief also said her office was ready to provide advice on how such a body could be designed in line with international standards.
Inviting the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances to visit Bangladesh would also show a commitment to decisively address this issue, she said.
“As the biggest contributor of uniformed personnel to UN peacekeeping missions, Bangladesh should ensure it has a robust system in place to ensure the careful human rights screening of security personnel,”