May 22, 2024

BSS, DHAKA: Criticising the recently released US State Department’s 2023 Human Rights Report, a foreign ministry spokesperson today said it is apparent that the report mostly relies on assumptions and unsubstantiated allegations.

“As such, some of the inherent and evident biases in the reporting pattern are quite evident”, said spokesperson Seheli Sabrin at a press briefing at the foreign ministry.

She said the allegations are drawn from local and international non-government organizations (including anonymous sources), many of which are supported by the US government or related entities.

Regrettably, she said, many of the improvements and achievements of the Bangladesh government have not been acknowledged in the report.

“On the other hand, isolated and unfounded allegations continue to be flagged as part of a systematic trend”, she added.

Reading out a written statement, she said the report would make it evident that it is replete with references to individual reported or alleged incidents that were used to draw broad, generalized inferences.

“The Government of Bangladesh takes note of the US State Department’s release of the Country Report on Human Rights Practices, 2023 and appreciates continued interest of the US administration in Human Rights situation across the globe,” according to the statement.

Seheli said, “No matter how much we aspire, human rights situation is not perfect anywhere in the world. Though human rights are non-hierarchical, fulfillment of them can be incremental as socio-economic constraints often put limit to the pace of realizing those rights.”

Bangladesh government has been doing its best to uphold human rights of its citizens. Indeed, under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, human rights situation has significantly improved in Bangladesh, she continued.

Mindful of the areas that need further improvement, the current government, during its consecutive terms in the office since 2009, continued to invest in realizing meaningful advancement in human rights situation, she said.

The spokesperson said any discerning observer would notice that such efforts resulted in significant improvement in women empowerment, gender parity, children’s rights, rights of elderly persons, workers’ rights, grievance redressal, access to justice, religious freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of assembly and so on and so forth.

“It is to be made public yet again that contrary to what the Report claims, the former Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia is a convicted person with suspended sentence under the Executive authority, and is definitely not under any form of ‘house arrest”, she said.

One of the gross missing elements in the report is about the systematic campaign launched last year by the anti-state and anti-government elements during the lead up to the 12th National Elections in order to create unrest, violence and anarchy under different pretexts and using diverse interest groups, she added.

While the report alleges the law enforcement for use of excessive force in some cases, it fails to reflect the violence and vandalism perpetrated by BNP and its political allies, which often disrupted lives of general people and resulted in damage of public and private property.

“It is ironic that when the State was engaged in protecting public life, order and property against such orchestrated campaign, it has been held responsible in the Report for even taking recourse to some lawful actions and remedies”, the spokesperson said.

This must be registered that the law enforcement agencies of Bangladesh exercised utmost restraints and dealt any law-and-order situation with full professionalism.

“Coupled with government’s sincere support and professional conduct of elections by the Election Commission, 28 of 44 registered parties participated in the 12th National Elections with 42% people exercising their voting rights despite boycotts from BNP and some other parties” she added.

It is unfortunate that despite having a series of dialogues with the US authorities on human rights and labour rights issues, a number of recurrent complaints or allegations have been flagged in the report discounting the state/ government perspective on those matters.

For instance, the Rohingya people continue to be termed as ‘refugees’ or ‘stateless persons’, thus undermining their legitimate claims to be recognised as the citizens or residents of Myanmar.

In another instance, certain ethnic minority groups continue to be labeled as ‘Indigenous Peoples’ contrary to the Constitutional provisions of the country, which often amounts to attempts to incite unwarranted tension and divisions.

Again, in certain cases, the report tends to omit or neglect substantive evidence or information shared with the US authorities on individual cases.

For instance, in the alleged killing of Messers Shaheen Miah and Mohammad Raju, information had been shared on the judicial proceedings that found the incidents to be within the purview of law.

Yet again, she said, the judicial processes undertaken in the case of Jesmin Sultana were not adequately reflected in the report, especially the issue of ongoing due process.

“Along similar lines, a number of cases have been flagged in the Report concerning labour rights issues, especially on trade union registration and activities, that have been discussed with the relevant US officials on a number of bilateral or plurilateral platforms” she said.

As usual, the report wrongfully characterises lawful actions taken by the law enforcement authorities in case of unwarranted obstructions or vandalism carried out in the name of workers against factories, establishments, public properties, or management staff.

The spokesperson observed that the report continues to maintain the trend of projecting incidents committed by private individuals or entities as part of systemic abuse of human rights, without often elaborating on the subsequent administrative and judicial measures taken to ensure redress and accountability.

The report fails to appreciate, and rather undermines, a number of valued state institutions, including the independent judiciary and certain statutory bodies, which is detrimental to the morale and functioning of such institutions, she added.

In general, the government of Bangladesh takes note of the overall report and looks forward to remaining engaged with the UN Human Rights mechanisms, the US and other international partners, and stakeholders towards upholding its commitment to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights by all citizens under any circumstances.

The government of Bangladesh takes this opportunity to reiterate its concerns about the continued trampling of human rights in Gaza by the Israeli occupation force and hopes that the US will play a leadership role in the ongoing efforts of the international community to stop serious human rights violations, killing of innocent women and children, and crimes against humanity in Palestine.

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