September 2, 2013
”GOB needs to take specific and time bound commitments to implement UPR Recommendations” say the Human Rights Forum Bangladesh in the National Seminar on UPR
Human Rights Forum Bangladesh (HRFB), a coalition of 19 human rights and development organisations, organised a day long seminar on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), on 29 July 2013 at BIAM Foundation.
The purpose of the seminar was to bring all stakeholders together to discuss the recommendations by the member states of UN Human Rights Council at the Universal Periodic Review for Bangladesh in April 2013 in Geneva and to work with the Government to develop a road map to implement those recommendations at national level. The objective was also to encourage the Government for more specific and time-bound commitments as well as promoting the acceptance of the pending recommendations in the final plenary session in September 2013.
The daylong seminar was divided into three sessions;i) opening session; ii) thematic break-out sessions and iii) synthesizing session. In the break-out sessions, four panel discussions held on four crucial issues for which strong advocacy is needed and on which there are wider gaps between the position of Government and the human rights groups.
The seminar was largely attended by representatives of various civil society organisations, human rights activists, academia, diplomatic community, students and media professionals. HRFB invited the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh as the key person for the seminar, however, the minister expressed her regret in a letter written to the convener of the Forum for not being able to attend due to a cabinet meeting of the Government. The Minister sent a representative from her ministry, Saida Muna Tasneem, who is the Director General of the UN desk.
HRFB also invited representatives from relevant ministries to participate in the respective sessions. Sultana Kamal, Convener of the Forum, inaugurated the seminar and Dr. Shah Alam, Member of the Law Commission attended the seminar as a “Guest Speaker”.
The themes of the panel discussions were
- Civil and Political Rights
- Economic Social and Cultural Rights
- Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, the Minorities and Vulnerable Groups
- The Independence and Effectiveness of National Institutions
O U T C O M E S
The stakeholders identified the long term and short term strategies the Government of Bangladesh (GOB) should commit to, in order to implement the recommendations.
- GOB should make clear commitment with specific timeline and procedure for the consideration of the ratification of CPED and OP-CAT. GOB should also make clear commitment on withdrawal of reservations of different treaty provisions.
- GOB should adopt clear strategies to incorporate international obligations (conventions Bangladesh has ratified) in the national laws.
- GOB should make a commitment indicating specific timeline for submission of the pending reports regularly which are due to the treaty bodies.
- GOB should accept pending requests for visits from Special Rapporteurs and should also extend standing invitations.
- GOB should make it clear that they will adopt plan of action within a particular period to implement the National Women’s Policy, engaging stakeholders.
- There should be a roadmap from the GOB side to identify discriminatory laws and by when and how they will review and amend discriminatory personal laws to ensure gender equality.
- GOB should ensure quick response from law enforcing agencies in addressing violence against women and children and give emphasis on the implementation of the existing laws to stop all forms of violence.
- GOB should specify the process and timeline of the appointment of a Ombudsperson for Children.
- GOB should make a commitment mentioning particular time period with the ways to end child labour and ensure children’s free access to health and education.
- GOB should acknowledge the incidents of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances and provide clear commitment and procedure to hold those accountable. GOB should also provide time-bound commitment to bring legal reforms to address those human rights violations.
- GOB should make commitment specifying the process of establishing an independent commission to ensure transparent and accountable investigation and prosecution of alleged human rights violations by state as well as non-state actors, and reparations for victims.
- GOB should commit to initiate both criminal and departmental proceedings immediately after the allegation of human rights violation by LEAs.
- GOB should take actions to end custodial torture, and other human rights abuses of prisoners and detainees; and also to promote reforms in prison related laws including systematic monitoring of prisons.
- GOB should commit specific timeline to repeal the Special Powers Act 1974 and reform other related laws.
- There should be a strong commitment from the Government’s side that they will avoid politicization of the incidents of human rights violation.
- GOB should commit to adopt a national Social Safety Net Policy for the vulnerable groups of the society, providing at least 3% of GDP for basic social security schemes and strengthen distribution and coordination to ensure openness, equity and accountability.
- To challenge impunity effectively, the GOB should ensure that the ongoing trial of the crimes against humanity during the liberation war of 1971 is being held in accordance with due process and consistent with the highest standards of fairness and neutrality.
- GOB should make commitment to provide human rights education, training and awareness-raising programmes to the parliamentarians, judges, civil servants, law enforcement agents, lawyers and journalists.
- GOB will incorporate basic concepts of human rights at the textbook at the school level.
- GOB needs to take necessary measures immediately to give constitutional recognition to the identity and integrity of IPs.
- GOB has to develop a time bound action plan for the full implementation of the CHT accord and ensure its early enforcement.
- GOB has to acknowledge existence of sexual and gender minorities, incorporate the issue in relevant Policies and de-criminalize consensual adult same-sex activities by abolishing section 377 of the Penal Code.
- GOB should commit to criminalize ‘untouchability’ and any form of such discriminatory practices.
- GOB needs to initiate inter-cultural education to increase understandings among different cultural groups and also to build respect for diversity.
- GOB must commit to provide and ensure legal and constitutional protection to the ethnic and religious minorities.
- GOB should ensure transparency and maximum benefit of the target group, for that steps to transfer cash directly to them through Bangladesh Bank should be taken.
- GOB has to take steps to criminalize corruption consistent with the UNCAC commitment.
- GOB should commit specific actions including 24 hours access and availability of services, to reduce maternal mortality rate and infant mortality rate.
- GOB should commit to enact law on right to education to ensure universal access including incentives for poorer families to send children to school
- GOB should set clear strategy to ensure that media personnel on duty are protected from harassment.
- GOB should commit to not passing any laws which will hamper the free and independent performance of the media, NGOs and civil society.
- GOB must Commit to adopt Domestic Workers’ Welfare Policy; and include informal workers within Labour Laws, and ensure effective enforcement.
- GOB should spell out the procedure for the selection of the members of NHRC and other constitutional and statutory bodies. Participation of civil society and human rights organizations should be ensured in the selection process.
- NHRC must have given the power to investigate human rights violations by law enforcing agencies. NHRC has to give the authority of submitting any report against the law enforcement agencies.
- GOB should have ombudsman in different sectors like education, health, local government, disadvantages communities etc
- Emphasis has to be given in formation of all party committee on human rights and enact Code of Conduct of MPs, take specific measures to make parliament effective- stop boycott and quorum crisis of parliament and make committees effective.
- A comprehensive reform of civil service and law enforcement institutions should be ensured for professional integrity and accountability of public service and to stop the pernicious culture of partisan political influence.
- GOB has to monitor the enforcement of Right to Information Act and Plan of Action should be adopted for the implementation of RTI.
- GOB should refrain itself from the mass withdrawal of criminals and corruption under partisan political consideration.
- GOB should adopt a plan of action immediately to ensure inter-ministerial coordination in implementing these commitments.
- Apart from the inter-ministerial coordination, GOB should also place time-bound commitment for ensuring proper coordination among executive, legislature and judiciary as well.
- The outcome of the seminar has been clustered and sent to Ministry of Foreign Affairs as our expectation on GOB’s commitment in the upcoming plenary session.
- As part of the follow-up activities related to the Universal Periodic Review, HRFB will organise a sharing of the final outcome document at the divisional level and will make the commitments of the Government public. HRFB will also closely monitor the implementation of the commitments at the national level and will make intervention whenever necessary. The Forum will prepare a status report each year to identify the progress of the implementation.
- The Forum is committed to make the best use of the UPR process to ensure the main objective of the process- to promote, protect and improve human rights situation of the country.