UN concerned over rights abuses in Bangladesh | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 29, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:21 AM, February 29, 2020

UN concerned over rights abuses in Bangladesh

Expresses worry with situations in India, Pakistan, Myanmar

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has expressed concern over the continuing allegations of torture, arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings in Bangladesh last year.

"Continuing allegations of torture, arbitrary arrests and almost 400 extrajudicial killings last year are concerning, as are reports of intimidation of human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists, and constraints in the context of recent local elections," she said while addressing the 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday.

She also called for reforming the Digital Security Act, which was criticised by rights groups and journalists who feared the act would curb independent journalism and freedom of speech.

The UN human rights chief encouraged action to strengthen the independence and impartiality of the judiciary and National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh.

She also lauded the country for its commendable record of working with the UN -- particularly in receiving the Rohingya refugees. 

Some 750,000 Rohingyas fled brutal military crackdown since August 2017, joining some 300,000 others who had fled waves of violence, especially after Myanmar denied citizenship of the Rohingyas through a citizenship law in 1982.

Talking about a recent report on Myanmar, Bachelet said discrimination and exclusion against religious and ethnic minorities have characterised many of the laws and policies of Myanmar for over half a century. 

They have contributed to and perpetuated violence, extreme poverty, exploitation and dispossession. Notably, the 1982 Citizenship Law rendered stateless a significant proportion of the Rohingya and other Muslims, compounding their vulnerability, she said.

"Moreover, ethnic and religious minorities across the country have to varying degrees, suffered serious human rights violations at the hands of the military, whose counter-insurgency policies and tactics have at times included the deliberate targeting of civilians," said Bachelet.

Democratic deficits in Myanmar, as well as entrenched impunity, weak rule of law, and the lack of civilian oversight over the military, have been major enabling factors, she said. 

"The recent upsurge of xenophobia and violence can also be partly attributed to the stresses and uncertainties of Myanmar's current transition from decades of authoritarian rule.  

"The dramatic expansion of public access to social media has enabled extremist and ultra-nationalist movements to propagate messages inciting hatred and violence, fueling communal tensions."  

The UN human rights chief urged the Myanmar government to take action to address escalating prejudice and incitement against Rohingyas and other minority communities.   

Bachelet also expressed concern over the Citizenship Amendment Act of India and the reports of police inaction in the face of attacks against Muslims by other groups, as well as previous reports of excessive use of force by police against peaceful protesters.

At least 42 people have lost their lives and more than 250 were injured as armed mobs rampaged through parts of northeast Delhi from Sunday till Tuesday, looting and burning buildings and attacking residents.

"I appeal to all political leaders to prevent violence," she said. 

She mentioned that religious minorities in Pakistan continue to face violence, repeated attacks on their places of worship, and discrimination in law and practice. 

The government, despite recommendations from international human rights mechanisms, has not amended or repealed blasphemy law provisions, which have led to violence against religious minorities, as well as to arbitrary arrests and prosecution, the UN human rights chief added.   

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