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The role of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is almost silent over the incidents of 'enforced disappearance' and 'crossfire', the rights activists have alleged.

UN and local and international human rights organisations, however, were vocal over the violation of human rights.

The activists also alleged the present commission has no tangible role to stop the killings in custody of law enforcing agencies.

There was a huge outcry over the incident of retired major Sinha Md Rashed Khan being shot dead in July. The commission had no visible role regarding the incident. But they are supposed to be more vocal about violation of human rights.

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The human rights commission has in fact become a rehabilitation centre of retired bureaucrats. Those, who are running the commission, have no experience of human rights related tasks. The role they play is just for show. NHRC is unable to play an effective role.
TIB executive director ifthekharuzzaman

Two former chairmen of the commission and human rights activists think that the commission has not been able to build up the trust of the people. The confidence of the people has weakened further due to the role of the present commission. The commission is avoiding sensitive issues.

The government formed the new commission with former secretary Nasima Begum as chairman in October 2019.

After the formation of this commission, an alliance of human rights organisations, Human Rights Forum Bangladesh (HRFB) expressed disappointment and concern, saying that those who had no experience in human rights activities got priority in the recruitment.

Former NHRC chairman Mizanur Rahman said those who worked for 40 years as subordinates under the government cannot play strong role. Their backbones have become bent.

Mizanur Rahman said the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) cannot keep silent about the extrajudicial killings. What is the difference between a common organisation and the NHRC if the commission remains silent about the incidents of human rights violations, he questioned.

According to HRFB, some 535 people have been victims of extrajudicial killings between January and 25 June this year. However, the commission has not taken any steps to carry out investigation and register protests against these incidents, HRFB said.

In the last one year, the commission has sent letters to the home ministry seeking reports on 31 incidents of human rights violations.

The ministry said they have received 28 reports from the commission and sent these to the police headquarters for investigation. The ministry has sent replies to the commission regarding six incidents including missing housemaids and extortion by police .

Speaking to Prothom Alo, home minister Asaduzzaman Khan said, "We take immediate steps to carry out investigation whenever the human rights commission seeks any report."

During the coronavirus pandemic, human rights activists said the commission has advised the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) to open a hotline and to ensure health facilities. The commission has organised virtual meetings on violence against women and launched campaigns. The commission also expressed concern over some incidents of human rights violations. These are positive initiatives.

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The activists, however, noted the responsibilities and jurisdiction of the commission are much wider. They are disappointed as the commission has no tangible role to make the law enforcing agencies accountable.

About the matter, former NHRC chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque said, "The commission has to focus on the responsibilities they are entrusted with. I saw them raise their voice in a few incidents. Their role is not visible about the extrajudicial killings."

According to the law, the Human Rights Commission can seek reports from the government for violation of human rights by members of the law enforcing agencies. The government has to give reports to the commission quickly. In this regard, if the commission makes any recommendation, the government will implement and inform the commission within six months.

When questioned about the NHRC being unable to play a strong role to contain human rights violations, chairman Nasima Begum said, "This is not true."

Many incidents of human rights violations have taken place during the coronavirus pandemic. But the NHRC did not carry out any investigation on the spot.

About such an allegation Nasima Begum said, "This is not true too. The commission's investigation team visited the spot where a woman was stripped and assaulted in Begumganj."

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) cannot keep silent about the extrajudicial killings. What is the difference between a common organisation and the NHRC if the commission remains silent about the incidents of human rights violations.
Former NHRC chairman Mizanur Rahman

At a programme in December last year, Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) remarked that the process of appointment of chairman and members of National Human Rights Commission was not transparent. The rights organisation recommended making the appointment transparent, participatory and merit based.

Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) executive director Ifthekharuzzaman said the human rights commission has in fact become a rehabilitation centre of retired bureaucrats.

Those who are running the commission, have no experience of human rights related tasks, he said adding the role they play is just for show. NHRC is unable to play an effective role, Ifthekharuzzaman added.

*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.

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