South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

The United Kingdom has said that human rights situation in Bangladesh did not improve last year and that the tension between the Awami League and BNP still remains unresolved.

“There was no improvement in the overall human rights situation in Bangladesh in 2015. Tensions between the two main political parties – the ruling Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) – remain unresolved,” the 2015 Foreign and Commonwealth Office Report on Human Rights and Democracy says about Bangladesh.

The report released yesterday says that the confrontational actions during the first quarter of last year, including the arrest of senior BNP leaders, an indefinite BNP-led transport blockade, and repeated hartals or general strikes impacted on people’s security and livelihoods.

“The relatively peaceful and participatory Municipal Elections on December 30, held on party lines for the first time, were a positive development,” the report points out.

A rise in the number of extremist attacks against secularist writers and religious minorities last year increased pressure on free speech, while the draft Foreign Donations Act risks becoming a missed opportunity to improve the regulatory regime for NGOs.

Through its Human Rights and Democracy Programme, the UK provided safety training to bloggers in Bangladesh, and supported a review of the Information and Communication Technology Act 2006 to bring it into line with international standards.

An overloaded justice system and delays in processing through the courts contributed to a culture of violence where people take the law into their own hands, the report observes.

“NGOs reported that excessive use of force, extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances were conducted with impunity, while the death penalty remained a legal punishment for a wide range of offences,” the report mentions.

In 2015, at least five people were executed, including three war criminals convicted by the International Crimes Tribunal. NGOs continued to express concern over the process and independence of the tribunal.

The Department for International Development (DFID) last year contributed £3.7 million towards justice sector reform and £1.2 million for a police reform programme in Bangladesh, the report says.

Praising women empowerment in Bangladesh, the report says that women make a considerable contribution to the Bangladesh economy; many are employed in the public service and the ready-made garments sector.

“However, women still do not enjoy the same social status as men, and gender-based violence remains a substantial problem. Child marriage also remains a significant concern,” the report says.

It also lauded Bangladesh’s growing economy, saying that they encourage the Bangladesh authorities to ensure that this is matched by a positive human rights trajectory this year and beyond. 

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Updated On: April 22, 2016