UPR Report Sharing meeting with the Diplomats
February 12, 2013
Hotel Summer Palace, Dhaka
On October 2012, Human Rights Forum Bangladesh submitted UPR Stakeholders Report under the Universal Periodic Review of UN Human Rights Council. The second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review on Bangladesh is going to be held on April 2013 in Geneva. As a part of this process, on Wednesday 12th February 2013, the Human Rights Forum Bangladesh shared its UPR Report findings with the diplomats in Dhaka.
Around 30 representatives from different Foreign Missions and International Organizations gathered in Baridhara for the report sharing meeting. Members of the Forum also attended the meeting.
Sultana Kamal, the convenor of the Forum and also the Executive Director of Ain o Salish Kendra, the Secretariat for the human rights forum Bangladesh moderated the meeting. Dr. Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director of Transparency International Bangladesh, Sara Hossain, Honorary Director of Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), Zakir Hossain, Chief Executive of Nagorik Udyog and Ayesha Khanom President of Mahila Parishad and Shaheen Anam, Executive Director of Manusher Jonno foundation attended the meeting.
Sara Hossain then presented the key concerns highlighted in the UPR report submitted by the HRFB After Sara Hossain presented the findings of the UPR Report, Sultana Kamal presented findings from the UPR Report on Child Rights Situation of Bangladesh, which has been submitted by Child Rights Governance Assembly (CRGA). Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) is also acting as the Secretariat of CRGA.
Issues Raised by Delegates
Mr. Svend Olling, the Ambassador of Denmark , expressed his difficulty in understanding how the development in Bangladesh is really evolving, especially comparing the given Agenda and HR Reports. He highlighted three issues of main importance- workers rights, in terms of workers safety, rights to form and join unions. He also spoke of the Rohingya issue and the demand for capital punishment in the ongoing war crimes tribunal.
Mrs. Ragne Birte Lund, Ambassador of Norway , expressed her gratefulness and the importance to meet the Civil Society before the review in Geneva.
She agreed with her Colleague H.E. Ambassador of Denmark and stated that some of the issues are more acute than others. At the same time she added emphasis on the issue of Capital Punishment and how a dialogue can be started on this.
An important issue she saw as under-represented is violence against women. Further, she remarked on the lack of follow up of previous recommendations and questioned, how have the recommendations been used? She said, some of them are visible as for example of the ‘Maternity Leave’ mentioned in the presentation. She posed the question, ‘’ What kind of actions can be taken and how the process can be made visible?’’.
Sultana Kamal replied, implementations of laws are very important and unfortunately no mechanism is in place. Violence against women is an important issue and there are lot of pressure from the women rights movements. In general, violence is directly related to empowerment. So women’s security is a cultural issue and requires a long drawn change process.
Answers from the Panel
International Crimes Tribunal and the Trial of the War Criminals
The War crimes and the culture of impunity are the biggest violations against humanity. To end impunity of these perpetrators, they should be given the highest penalty according to the law of the land. Killing, looting, arson rape and crime against humanity in 71 are still live and sensitive issue in our society. It is also important to make sure the trial is transparent.
The Forum members mentioned that Government is continuously denying to give refuge to the Rohingyas focusing on the economic condition of the country. But this should be considered on humanitarian as well as human rights ground. We have the experience of being refugees during our liberation war. The Forum also informed that they are doing necessary campaigns to change Government’s position about the Rohingyas.
Bangladesh is part of the global market and carries a part of the burden to assure basic rights for workers. Unfortunately these particular rights and the workers safety are victims of a corruption culture within the country. At the same time the appeal shouldn’t go only towards the government, but also to the country where the products are sold and brought. The conclusion should be consumer’s awareness and not boycott, because the people here need their jobs. If the countries, who import the products, impose strong restrictions it will ultimately make the poor people’s rights more miserable. Apart from the garment workers the rights of the domestic workers should be highlighted.
Birgit Lundbach, Representative of Save the Children, stated that most of the laws are not implemented. There is still a lack of monitoring mechanisms and no one should be satisfied. She strongly recommended not to rely on paper victories.
Neal Walker, United Nations Resident Co-ordinator stressed that he strongly believes that the state report shouldn’t just be a statement but a commitment.
He asked, ‘’How and where is the HRF pushing the Government to be more precise in their own report’’?
He admitted the Bangladesh Government has made some positive efforts, however those were not enough in relation with their own commitments in the first cycle.
Jahangir Alam of The National Alliance of Disabled Peoples’ Organisations requested a Braille draft of the Report. He reminded the participants that twenty two million People are disabled in Bangladesh, they need laws and implementation of those laws to protect their own rights.
Sultana Kamal thanked the diplomats for attending the meeting and mentioned that it is very important to communicate with the diplomats to bring our concerns in front of the human rights council where the human rights situation of the country is going to be reviewed on 29 April 2013. She concluded the meeting saying that it’s going to be a difficult fight to ensure human rights for all but Human Rights Forum is committed to improve human rights situation of the country using the opportunity of the Universal Periodic Review.