In the recent past, Human rights are perhaps one of the most talked about issues in Bangladesh, nationally and internationally. Bangladesh on Oct. 11 achieved its membership in the United Nations Human Rights Council for the term 2023–2025 with the highest vote from the Asia-Pacific region. In the election, 160 countries among 189 supported Bangladesh’s membership in the United Nations General Assembly in New York, which is an outstanding achievement for the government. It is mentionable, this would be the fifth term of Bangladesh as a member of the 47-member UNHRC. In the previous UNHRC elections, Bangladesh won in 2006, 2009, 2014, and 2018; effectively for all possible terms as per the rules of business of the Council.
This achievement is a great honor for Bangladesh as a country, and also a warning of responsibility in the midst of criticism from the United Nations, the United States, and other countries regarding the allegations of disappearances and human rights violations. The task of the Human Rights Council is to monitor the human rights situation of member countries around the world and make necessary recommendations. Bangladesh is now one of the countries responsible for taking care of human rights situations in different countries. Truly speaking, this victory will enhance the image of Bangladesh and the current government in the international forum.
As a responsible member state of the UN, Bangladesh remains committed to making all efforts to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights nationally and globally. This prestigious win is a manifestation of recognition by the international community that Bangladesh’s human rights situation is not alarming, and the government is quite aware of ensuring human rights. This UN body takes care of human rights in all countries of the world. So, if Bangladesh’s human rights state had been terrible, 160 countries would not have voted for it to join the Human Rights Council.
The result of the vote is also a big blow to the active groups that continues to try to embarrass Bangladesh and its government in the international arena by spreading false information about frequent human rights violations in the country. This nullifies the ongoing smear campaign with falsified and fabricated information by some politically motivated vested corners at home and abroad aimed at negatively portraying the human rights situation of Bangladesh a foreign press ministry press release said.
The human rights situation in Bangladesh is not satisfactory according to the United Nations. They urged Bangladesh to improve its human rights situation. Last year, the US imposed sanctions on RAB and six of its former and current officials. They are ignoring the requests to withdraw it despite the situation’s improvement. Against this backdrop, electing Bangladesh as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council is proof of the international community’s deep confidence in Bangladesh’s contribution to the UN human rights system and ability to carry out the duties of the Council under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Undoubtedly, such a position of Bangladesh in the United Nations will take Bangladesh a step forward in making its human rights more integrated.
At the invitation of the Government of Bangladesh, Michelle Bachelet, the UN Human Rights Commissioner visited the country in August this year and held a series of consultations with the relevant stakeholders in Bangladesh. However, Bachelet did not mention anything alarming about the human rights situation in the country in the written statement she handed over to journalists before leaving Bangladesh at the end of her scheduled visit. As she called on the government to discuss with various parties to update the Digital Security Act, she also praised the steps taken by the Bangladesh government in various fields, including the Rohingya issue.
Cases of human rights abuses in various countries including Venezuela, Afghanistan, and Myanmar have come up in the latest report of the UN. But Bangladesh is not among these countries. On the contrary, the incident of sheltering the Rohingya minority fleeing from the massacre and persecution of the military forces in Myanmar has also been highlighted. Through this, the humanity that Bangladesh has shown by sheltering the Rohingyas in danger has been highlighted as a unique example in the international arena including the United Nations.
This observation of Michelle Bachelet about the human rights situation in Bangladesh proved that Bangladesh is respectful to the international human rights mechanisms and there is nothing to worry about the human rights situation in Bangladesh.
This paper, however, does not suggest that Bangladesh does not have any case of human rights violation. In fact, human rights challenges are faced just like any other country in the world does. Unfortunately, rule of law, democracy, and human rights are subject to the enormous challenge of manipulation of the superpowers which want to impose imperial designs on the world in the name of peace. However, some isolated incidents have occurred in Bangladesh in which the rights of a few individuals or institutions have been violated by some overenthusiastic members of the government or law enforcement that have embarrassed the government. But no such incident is happening regularly in Bangladesh that may be considered a human rights violation. As a result, it is not right to promote those incidents as human rights violations.
The issue of human rights is explicitly written in the constitution of Bangladesh. Article 11 of the Constitution states that “the Republic shall be a democracy in which fundamental human rights and freedoms and respect for the dignity and worth of the human person shall be guaranteed.” As a result, the state or the government does not have the power to take away the rights of any person or organization because the government runs the state within the guidelines of the constitution. Moreover, Bangladesh has an independent judiciary and a Human Rights Commission. These institutions should be strengthened so that any allegation of violence, extra-judicial killing, or unlawful detention against law enforcement agencies can be addressed immediately and effectively. Additionally, the law enforcement agencies of Bangladesh should be provided with intensive training to ensure that they do not violate human rights while combating terrorism and crimes unless in a given situation application of force is mandatory to save their own lives.
The responsibility of looking after the human rights situation of various countries is entrusted to the council. Bangladesh should respect the trust that the member states have shown in Bangladesh and the current government in the vote of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Finally, everyone expects that as a member of the Human Rights Council, Bangladesh will be able to make a significant contribution to the implementation of UN principles in the field of human rights, especially in the context of emerging global challenges.
[Photo by Basil D Soufi, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons]
*Kamal Uddin Mazumder is a Political economy Analyst based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.