Rights in Bangladesh - The Scenario
TOHID MD FAISAL KAMAL
“A lot of death threats are issued.
Journalists are forced to keep quiet. There is a lot of pressure on them
from local persons with links to higher authorities who want journalists
to keep quiet.”(1)
against human rights defenders in Bangladesh have occurred under
successive governments. This report highlights cases which have occurred
under the current and previous governments in order to demonstrate the
systematic failure of the state to protect human rights defenders and to
prevent abuses against them.
International considers all governments to be responsible for ensuring
the promotion and protection of human rights. In the same vein, Amnesty
International urges the Government of Bangladesh to bring to an end a
cycle of cumulative disregard for human rights in general and for abuses
against human rights defenders in particular. A cycle of impunity for
human rights violations, which has prevailed in the country over its
decades-long existence, is the most crucial issue to be addressed.
International is also calling upon all political parties in the country
to provide active support towards the fulfilment of this goal.
of the state including police, army and other law enforcement personnel,
for whom successive governments in Bangladesh have been directly
accountable, have perpetrated some of the violations against human
rights defenders. These violations include arrest and torture. They also
include continued harassment of human rights defenders through the
filing, case after case, of apparently unsubstantiated criminal
accusations against them. Non-governmental organizations seeking to
maintain a position independent of the ruling government of the time in
defence of human rights have also been frequently harassed.
perpetrators of abuses against human rights defenders are individuals or
groups linked to armed criminal gangs, parties of the ruling coalition
or the opposition, or mercenary gangs allegedly hired by local
politicians to suppress revelations about their unlawful activity.
Abuses committed by these “"non-state actors”" include
death threats and physical attacks against human rights defenders.
of human rights defenders have received death threats. Scores of them
have been attacked. Many have been seriously injured and some continue
to be in need of medical attention. Several journalists have had their
fingers or hands deliberately damaged so as not to be able to hold a
pen. Many have had to leave their homes and localities in the face of
continued threats. At least eight human rights defenders have been
assassinated since 2000 by assailants believed to be linked to armed
criminal gangs or armed factions of political parties.
rights defenders include all those men and women who act on their own or
collectively to promote or protect human rights. Human rights defenders
work in various spheres and their work is inspired by international
human rights standards. This work includes, but is not limited to, the
search for truth and justice; the strengthening of the rule of law;
increasing government accountability; the struggle for gender, sexual
and racial equality; children’s rights; the rights of refugees; the
struggle against corruption, environmental degradation, hunger, disease
1998, the United Nations general assembly recognized human rights
defenders, their rights and responsibilities (See the Declaration on
Human Rights Defenders – resolution 53/144 of 9 December 1998).
rights defenders in Bangladesh include journalists, writers, academics,
staff of non-governmental organizations, lawyers, and members of
professional bodies. They include women and men in rural or urban areas
and from various social backgrounds.
report provides information on abuses human rights defenders face, the
patterns of activities that place them at risk of either harassment,
arrest and torture, or death threats or attacks. It highlights the
causes of these violations and provides recommendations to the
Government of Bangladesh, which, if implemented, would protect human
report is primarily based on interviews conducted by Amnesty
International in Bangladesh in late 2003 with over 20 human rights
defenders and leading human rights activists from different parts of the
country, reports published in a number of Bangladeshi newspapers and
other published material on the situation of journalists. In March 2005,
Amnesty International shared the draft of this report with scores of
human rights defenders from various parts of the country attending a
seminar in Dhaka on the situation of human rights defenders in
Bangladesh. The views and comments received from the participants of the
seminar are, in so far as they concern the situation of human rights
defenders, reflected in this report. For security reasons, individuals
providing information for this report have not been named.
International also sent a copy of the draft report to the Government of
Bangladesh on 30 March 2005, seeking comments. As of late July 2005, the
government had not sent any comments to Amnesty International.
majority of cases referred to in this report belong to journalists.
Bangladeshi journalists have frequently been engaged in reporting and
raising their voices against abuses allegedly committed by government
authorities or members of the ruling parties past and present. They are
often the first point of contact when human rights violations occur,
particularly in more remote rural areas. Local people see the local
journalist as someone who will listen to their stories and will expose
abuses of their human rights to a broader audience.
areas to which NGO delegates cannot travel for reasons of security, they
rely almost exclusively on reports filed by journalists. Even when NGOs
are able to send their own investigative teams to gather the details of
a case of human rights concern, they work closely with local journalists
who usually have the most up-to-date information about the issue.
report also provides an analysis of the dangerous pressure points which
act to suppress the activities of human rights defenders. These include
a climate of political polarization, a culture of gun violence, the
tension between secularism and religious based politics, and a shrinking
writer is a Management and I.T. Professional, Free lance writer, Good
Governance activist, and Member Secretary of Center for Good
views expressed are of the author's own and not necessarily of the
organization he represents. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org