South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Yesterday an advertisement in Prothom Alo must have caught everyone’s attention. Under the monogram of the Bangladesh government, the ad stated that free legal aid would be provided to anyone who had been kept in jail for a long period of time. This is part of a foreign-funded government project and certainly deserves appreciation.

However, the fact that the advertisement spoke of ‘oppressed, helpless, imprisoned women, men and children’, is certainly a cause of concern. The question looms large as to how many people in the country can actually have access to legal assistance when they are oppressed. It is not just a matter of money. The weaker and marginal communities are deprived of legal recourse due to political, social, religious and communal reasons too.

Executive director of the human rights watchdog Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), Sultana Kamal, on Friday expressed her concern about last year’s human rights situation. Of particular concern was the violence at the onset of last year due to the opposition’s blockade programme and, at the end of the year, there was a rise in militancy and attacks on religious minorities as well as marginal communities. Then there were abductions, forced disappearances, secret killings and extrajudicial killings in the name of crossfire. Added to this was the overt and covert pressure on the media, curtailing freedom of expression.

We must not look back, but ahead. Ensuring human rights is even essential to hold on to the country’s economic development that the government claims to have achieved.

We welcome the government’s initiative to provide legal assistance to persons behind bars for long. But it is more important to create economic, political and social conditions so that people do not have to face long-term incarceration. Alongside general strikes and blockades, there must also be an end to abductions and extrajudicial killings.

Updated On: Jan 03, 2016