On 20 March 2023, the Human Rights Forum Bangladesh (HRFB) organised a national consultation to discuss the draft stakeholders’ report, which will be submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) as part of the fourth cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
The State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh, Md. Shahriar Alam, MP, attended the consultation as the chief guest. In addition, representatives from various national and international organisations were also present at the event.
Tamanna Hoq Riti, coordinator of the HRFB, shared the highlights of the draft report. She mentioned that the report presents the status of the implementation of the previous recommendations received by Bangladesh, covering the major achievements and challenges in the human rights situation of the country since the third cycle of the UPR on Bangladesh in 2018. The report also includes the Forum’s recommendations to address the challenges, respect human rights, and ensure the government’s commitments are implemented.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md. Shahriar Alam said that the government had ratified eight of the nine human rights treaties of the UN. It has become a member of the UNHRC for the fifth term. Human rights are a priority for the government. Addressing the concerns raised by the members regarding the misuse of the DSA 2018, the State Minister commented that, if this law is to be used against journalists, approval must be obtained from the highest level. He also mentioned the Act is required to tackle the ongoing cybercrimes and harassment of women on online platforms. The government will not repeal the Act; however, the government is in the process of consultation with the UNHRC and stakeholders to reform some provisions that are reportedly problematic.
According to Nur Khan Liton, executive director of ASK and convener of the Forum, the government needs to look into the allegations of human rights violations by the LEAs rather than outwardly rejecting them.
The Executive Director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), Dr. Iftekharuzzaman delivered the closing remarks. He said the DSA has been misused or used in such a way that reforming some provisions would not be enough. The Act must be repealed to ensure freedom of expression and the press.
The event participants included human rights activists, journalists, academics, and members of civil society. Ranjan Karmaker, Executive Director of Steps towards Development and Steering Committee Member of the Forum Sanjeeb Drong, General Secretary of the Bangladesh Adivasi Forum and Steering Committee member of the Forum, and Huma Khan, senior human rights adviser for the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office, were also present at the seminar.