The contempt that Bangladesh governments have shown over the years for the United Nations system of international convention monitoring is pretty staggering, as these two articles show.
New Age: Govt ignores UN rights committees, 28 April 2013
New Age: Govt ignores UN rights committees, 28 April 2013
The United Nations Committee on Torture, set up to monitor compliance with the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment has not received a single report from the Bangladesh government since the country ratified the convention in 1998.New Age: UN special rapporteurs denied entry since 2000, 24 April 2013
In 1999, within a year of ratification, the Bangladesh government was obliged by the terms of the convention to send an ‘initial report’ to the committee setting out how it has complied with the convention.
The government was subsequently required to send a report to the committee in four-year cycles — in 1999, 2003, 2007, and 2011.
Yet, none of the four Bangladesh governments in power over this period of time sent the committee a single one of these legally mandated reports.
The Awami League government was in power when the initial 1999 report was supposed to have been sent. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the caretaker governments were respectively in power when the 2003 and 2007 reports should have been submitted. The current AL government should also have sent a report two years ago in 2011.
The details about the government’s failure to comply with its legal obligations in sending the reports to the UN committee is contained in a report compiled by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights submitted to the Human Rights Council in February 2013.
The report was submitted as part of the preparation for the Universal Periodic Review into the human rights situation in Bangladesh that the UN’s Human Rights Council will conduct next week.
On Tuesday last week, New Age reported that the Bangladesh governments had in the past 10 years also denied permission to nine United Nation’s special rapporteurs to visit Bangladesh preventing them from investigating different kinds of human rights violations.
Saida Muna Tasneem, the director general of the United Nations wing of the foreign ministry, admitted that the government was ‘lagging behind’ in providing the reports blaming a ‘capacity problem’ within ministries to prepare them up to the standards required.
‘We have a plan to get up to date with the reports and are working with the UNDP to do so. We are going to make this clear at the UPR review this week,’ she said.
The UN Committee on Torture is not alone amongst the UN convention monitoring committees yet to have received reports from the Bangladesh government.
Four other UN committees monitoring compliance with international conventions which the Bangladesh government has ratified have not received reports.
They include the Human Rights Committee and the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights which monitors two core UN conventions which the AL government had ratified in its previous term of government — the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ratified in 1998) and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ratified in 2000).
In both cases, the government neither sent the ‘initial reports’ required in 2000 and 2002 nor any subsequent reports.
In the context of Bangladesh governments failing to submit any reports to the UN Committee on Torture for 14 years, the Human Rights Council, as part of the next week’s review of the country’s overall human rights situation, has received submissions from a number of national and international organisations claiming that torture is widespread in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh’s National Human Rights Commission has informed the council in its report that ‘torture continue[s] to be practised allegedly by law enforcement officials with impunity.’
Amnesty International also claimed in its report that ‘torture and ill treatment are widespread in Bangladesh and committed with virtual impunity by all security agencies — the police, the Rapid Action Battalion and the army — acting alone or together.’
More recently, the acting editor of the newspaper Amar Desh has alleged that he was tortured whilst in police custody.
In its own report to the Human Rights Council submitted in February 2013, the government appears to deny that its law enforcement agencies are involved in torture stating, ‘Whenever any criminal or suspect is brought into custody, such person is treated as per the applicable legal provisions under the [Code of Criminal Procedure 1860, Police Regulations of Bengal 1943] and relevant laws.’
It adds, ‘The [Police Rules of Bangladesh] also provides certain safeguards for protecting prisoners from torture. Any incident or allegation of torture in imprisonment is dealt with seriously and departmental actions are ensured against those responsible.’
A total of nine United Nations special rapporteurs appointed to investigate compliance with human rights standards on different issues have since 2000 not been allowed to enter the country despite repeated requests in some cases.
In the case of a request by the UN special rapporteur concerned with ‘extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions’, three different Bangladesh governments refused entry – the BNP government following a request in 2006, the caretaker government in 2008 and the
current Awami League government following a request in the following year.
Two requests from the UN independent expert dealing with the ‘independence of judges and lawyers’ have also proved unsuccessful – one made in 2007 during the caretaker period and another in 2012 during the period of the current government.
The information about the repeated unwillingness of different Bangladesh governments to allow entry to UN special rapporteurs is contained in a report compiled by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, submitted to the Human Rights Council in February 2013.
The report was submitted as part of the preparations for the Universal Periodic Review of the human rights situation in Bangladesh that the UN’s Human Rights Council will conduct on Monday.
Ms Saida Muna Tasneem, the director general of the United Nations wing of the foreign ministry, said that the government had ‘a standing invitation to any rapporteur to come to Bangladesh.’
‘The basic principle is that we are open to all rapporteurs. If we have not responded that is not because we do not want them to come,’ she added.
Asked whether the UN report was inaccurate, she said that there had been developments since it prepared the report.
‘There is no problem with the rapporteurs visiting, but maybe we could not give them time, or the timing could not be finalised. But there will be two rapporteurs coming in 2013. The foreign minister will clarify the situation at the UPR session,’ she said.
In February 2009, when Bangladesh last went through this review process, foreign minister Dipu Moni had stated that the government was ‘genuinely open to hosting the special procedures that are relevant to its contexts.’
However, the report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council shows that the current Awami League government has failed to respond positively to requests from a total of six different UN rapporteurs concerned with extrajudicial executions, independence of judiciary, violence against women, internally displaced persons, racism and international solidarity.
The AL government allowed a joint mission involving two UN rapporteurs working on ‘water and sanitation’ and ‘extreme poverty and human rights’ to come to Dhaka in 2009.
The requests, made by three special rapporteurs during the previous BNP government (2001-2006) and two during the caretaker period (2007-2008), which were turned down at the time, remain active but continue to be ignored by the present government.
These include requests from special rapporteurs dealing with ‘adequate housing’ a request originally made in 2005, ‘minority issues’ in 2006 and, ‘contemporary forms of slavery’– a request made in 2008.
It its written submission to the UN Human Rights Council for this year’s UPR review, the Bangladesh government has again asserted that it was ‘always committed to cooperate with international human rights mechanisms.’
The report compiled by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights shows that in the BNP period of government between 2000 and 2006, three rapporteurs – one concerned with religious intolerance, another with violence against women, and another with the right to food – were allowed to visit Bangladesh.