THE human rights situation of Bangladesh is going to be reviewed at the Human Rights Council of United Nations under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism on April 29. Along with the state report from Bangladesh, 27 alternative reports from various NGOs have been submitted. UN Human Rights Council has prepared a compilation on the basis of these reports.
Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is relatively a new mechanism of the United Nations to oversee the human rights situation in countries. The purpose of this mechanism is to improve the human rights condition of the member states of UN and to raise voice against violation of human rights — in whichever corner of the globe it takes place.
There are three reports taken into consideration in this process:
* A report prepared by the government;
* A report prepared by the Office of the High-Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the basis of information provided by different UN agencies and bodies; and
* Reports submitted by other stakeholders (including NGOs).
Furthermore, the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh is also participating in the UPR process for the first time by submitting its own report.
The Human Rights Forum, Bangladesh (HRFB), a coalition of 19 human rights and development organisations, has also submitted a report on the basis of information gathered from its own and other sources. The Forum also participated in the first UPR process in 2009.
The aim of the Forum is to portray the current human rights issues of the country through effective utilisation of the UPR process, to be informed about the position of the government on these issues, to obtain effective commitment from the government in protecting human rights and to carry on further advocacy with the government to realise the commitments and thus improve the human rights situation of the country through continuous dialogue and advocacy.
Apart from submitting its report in the 2009 UPR, representatives of the Forum participated in the review session. Later, they advocated with the government for the implementation of the recommendations made by many states. The Forum also prepared an intermediary report on the implementation of those recommendations.
To participate in the 2nd UPR process, the Forum has already prepared a report on the human rights situation of the country for the period September 2009 to September 2012. The important parts of this report were presented to the media in November, 2012. The UPR session is to be held on April 29 in Geneva. But those who have submitted report to participate in this process have already reached there and are participating in various issue-based discussions.
Most importantly, they are holding bilateral meetings with the representatives of different states and will raise the issues on which they can advise the government of Bangladesh. Groups that can present the most timely and effective recommendations to these representatives will get the most acceptance.
Later, these representatives of member states will convey the recommendations to the government of Bangladesh during the UPR session. A notable aspect of this year’s UPR is that the implementations of recommendations forwarded to and accepted by the present government in 2009 will be reviewed during this session.
The Forum has already discussed the issues of concern with the diplomats in Dhaka, and representatives of different international organisations. The report has been shared very widely, including discussion meetings at the district level. Out of these meetings, it seems that issues like the Rohingya refugee, trial of crimes against humanity, labour rights, women’s rights, extra-judicial killing, etc will get wider attention during the UPR session.
To participate in this year’s UPR session, a 10-member delegation of the Forum is already in Geneva. The mission members are having meetings with different foreign missions and international organisations like Human Rights Watch, FIDH, CIVICUS, FORUM-ASIA, and organising and speaking in side events.
The Forum is expecting that, in this year’s UPR session, other states will put forward some important recommendations on the current human rights situation to Bangladesh and the government of Bangladesh will positively consider those recommendations.
This year’s UPR session is very important in the context of the present situation in Bangladesh. At the time of the first UPR session in 2009, the present government had just been sworn into power. But now, the government is about to complete its tenure. Thus, the human rights situation of the past four plus years of this government will be reviewed with much attention.
Besides, the implementation of the previous commitments made by the government will also be discussed seriously.
The writer is Convenor, Human Rights Forum, Bangladesh.