The United Nations Human Rights Committee - which assesses state parties' compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - published its report on Tuesday setting out its observations on Bangladesh government 's compliance with the convention.
This report followed the government providing to the committee written and oral evidence of its claimed compliance.
Below are 14 key demands made by the committee along with extracts of what the committee stated.
- Provide National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) with sufficient financial and human resources
- Allow NHRC to investigate violations committed by state military and security actors
- Revise legislation to limit the use of force by law enforcement officials and others
- Criminalize enforced disappearances
- Investigate/prosecute all cases of arbitrary killings, enforced disappearances, and excessive use of force
- Establish the truth about the fate and the whereabouts of the victims of disappearances
- End the practice of custodial torture and ill-treatment which is widespread during interrogations, to extract confessions
- Establish an independent complaint mechanism with the authority to investigate all reported allegations of torture
- Ensure that death penalty is provided only for crimes involved with intentional killings
- Repeal the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Bill which censors non- governmental organisations.
- Amend section 57 of the Information and communications Technology Act 2006 which censors free speech
- Amend Child Marriage Restraint Act to remove exceptions to the legal minimum age of marriage for girls at 18 years
- Recognise status of indigenous people
- Decriminalize consensual sexual acts between same sex couples
Extracts from UN Committee Report
1. National Human Rights Commission
The committee said that:
The Committee is concerned that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) may not have a broad enough mandate to investigate all alleged human rights violations, including those involving State actors such as the police, military and security forces. It is further concerned that the NHRC lacks sufficient financial and human resources to fulfil its mandateIt then went onto conclude:
The State party should broaden the mandate of the NHRC and allow it to investigate all alleged human rights violations, including those committed by State military and security actors. The State party should also provide the NHRC with sufficient financial and human resources to allow it to impartially and independently fulfil its mandate in line with the Paris Principles (General Assembly resolution 48/134, annex).
2. Extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances
The Committee said that it was:
The Committee said that it was:
"concerned at the reported high rate of extra-judicial killings by police officers, soldiers and Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) force members and the reported enforced disappearances, as well as the excessive use of force by State actors. The Committee is further concerned by the lack of investigations and accountability of perpetrators, leaving families of victims without information and redress. It is further concerned that domestic law does not effectively criminalize enforced disappearances, and that the State party does not accept that enforced disappearances occurs"It went onto conclude that Bangladesh should
(a) Take immediate measures to protect the right to life of all persons;
(b) Revise its legislation to limit the use of force by law enforcement officials, the military and special forces, incorporating international standards, including the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, and ensure accountability for violations;
(c) Effectively criminalize enforced disappearance;3. Torture
(d) Investigate all cases of arbitrary killings, enforced disappearances, and excessive use of force, prosecute and if convicted punish the perpetrators with appropriate sanctions, and provide full reparation to the victims. In case of disappearances, the State party should establish the truth about the fate and the whereabouts of the victims and ensure that victims of enforced disappearance and their relatives are informed about the outcome of the investigation;
The Committee noted that Bangladesh said that:
that there are currently no ongoing investigations into cases of torture in the State party and is concerned at this fact in particular in light of information that torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement or military personnel is widespread in the State party during interrogations, to extract confessions. The Committee notes reports that this practice continues despite the existence of the Torture and Custodial Death Prevention Act of 2013,And went onto conclude that:
The State party should put an end to the practice of torture and ill-treatment. It should enforce the Torture and Custodial Death Prevention Act of 2013 and ensure that no immunity provisions in other laws supersede the protections in this Act. The State party should establish an independent complaint mechanism with the authority to investigate all reported allegations of, and complaints about, torture and ill-treatment. It should further ensure that alleged perpetrators of those crimes are prosecuted and that the victims are provided with full reparations.4. Death penalty
The Committee said that it was:
concerned at the high number of cases in which the death penalty is imposed in the State party and the fact that it can be handed down for crimes that do not meet the threshold of the “most serious crimes” within the meaning of article 6 (2) of the Covenant, such as smuggling or the adulteration of food under the Special Powers Act of 1974, the production, manufacture or consumption of intoxicant materials under the Intoxicant Control Act of 1990, and in certain cases spying under the Official Secrets Act of 1923 (arts. 6, 7 and 14).It concluded that:
The State party should give due consideration to abolishing the death penalty and acceding to the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. If the death penalty is maintained, it should consider introducing a moratorium on its application and, in any event, undertake legislative reform to ensure that the death penalty is provided only for the most serious crimes, understood to be intentional killings, ....5. Freedom of Speech
The Committee said that it was:
concerned at limitations on the rights of journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders and civil society organizations in the State party to exercise their right to freedom of opinion, expression and association, in particular:
(a) Lack of police protection, registration of complaints, investigations and prosecutions of incidents of violent killing of “secular bloggers” by extremist groups as well as death threats, physical attacks, intimidation and harassment of journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders;
(b) The arrest of at least 35 journalists, “secular bloggers” and human rights defenders in 2016 under the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Act of 2006 (amended in 2013), a de-facto blasphemy law which limits freedom of opinion and expression using vague and overbroad terminology to criminalize publishing information online, which “hurts religious sentiment” and information, which prejudices “the image of the State” with a punishment of 7 to 14 years;
(c) Undue limitations on the ability of human rights defenders and non-governmental organizations to operate, through the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Bill of 2016, which restricts the ability of non-governmental organizations to secure resources and makes it an offence to make “inimical” or “derogatory” remarks against the Constitution or a constitutional body terms which are undefined and which can result in deregistration of the non-governmental organization in question (arts. 6, 19, and 22).And said that Bangladesh should:
immediately undertake the following measures to protect the rights of journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders and civil society organizations:
(a) Protect them from unlawful killings, physical attacks and harassment. Ensure that police officials receive adequate training regarding the protection of human rights defenders. Register complaints and thoroughly investigate all attacks on the life, physical integrity and dignity of these persons, bring perpetrators to justice and provide victims with appropriate remedies;
(b) Repeal or revise the laws mentioned above with a view to bringing them into conformity with its obligations under the Covenant, taking into account the Committee’s general comment No. 34 (2011) on freedoms of opinion and expression. In particular, it should clarify the vague, broad and open-ended definition of key terms in these laws and ensure that they are not used as tools to curtail freedom of expression beyond the narrow restrictions permitted in article 19 of the Covenant;6. Refugees and Asylum Seekers
(c) Repeal the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Bill, and ensure that any legal provisions restricting access to foreign funding does not risk the effective operation of non-governmental organizations as a result of overly limited fundraising options, and ensure that non-governmental organizations can operate freely and without fear of retribution for exercising their freedom of expression.
The Committee said that it was:
concerned at reports that at times large numbers of asylum seekers fleeing violence in Myanmar were returned to Myanmar at the border. It is also concerned that the State party intends to relocate over 30,000 Rohingya refugees to the island of Thengar Char, an area which currently lacks the infrastructure necessary for respect of basic human rights, and is prone to flooding, and that such relocation might take place without the full and free consent of the affected individuals.
It concluded that:
The State party should implement legislative and administrative measures to comply fully with the principle of non-refoulement in line with article 6 and 7 of the Covenant. It should consider acceding to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. It should ensure that refugees are not forcibly relocated and that planned relocation sites would offer conditions of life compatible with the international obligations of the State party.
7. Early Marriage
The Committee said that it:
notes efforts by the State party to reduce early marriage through the approval of a Child Marriage Restraint Bill in 2016, but remains concerned that marriage below the age of 18 will be permitted in “special circumstances.And went onto conclude that:
The State party should amend the Child Marriage Restraint Bill to maintain the legal minimum age of marriage for girls at 18 years, in accordance with international norms, without any exceptions.
8. Discrimination against indigenous peoples
The Committee said that there continues to be:
Lack of legal recognition of indigenous peoples, reported discrimination and restrictions on the civil and political rights of indigenous peoples, in particular as it relates to land rights and participation in political and decision making processes;
It then went onto conclude that Bangladesh should:
Recognize the legal status of indigenous peoples, facilitate the reporting of violations of the rights of indigenous peoples, investigate such cases, prosecute perpetrators and compensate victims, resolve land disputes through the implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001 (amended in 2016) and through the use of an independent land commission, and include indigenous persons in political and decision making processes;
9. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender rightsThe Committee said that it was concerned about:
Criminalization under section 377 of the Penal code of consensual sexual acts between same sex couples which are termed “unnatural behaviour,” stigmatization, harassment and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons, barriers to assistance in seeking employment of “hijras” who are considered as transgender persons by the administration of invasive and humiliating medical examinations to prove transgender statusand that Bangladesh should:
Decriminalize consensual sexual acts between same sex couples, provide protection to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons from violence and harassment by ensuring that all cases are promptly investigated, prosecuted, and punished with appropriate sanctions, and eliminate barriers to employment and violations to the dignity of “hijras”.