Nada Al- Nashif

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has offered the government of Bangladesh its assistance in forming an independent system for investigating the allegations of human rights violations including enforced disappearance.

Nada Al- Nashif, UN acting high commissioner for human rights, revealed this information at the 51st session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday. She also appraised the session of the immediate past human rights high commissioner Michelle Bachelet’s visit to Bangladesh last month.

 “During the first ever visit by a High Commissioner to Bangladesh last month, as well as to the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, the former High Commissioner discussed a full range of concerns with the authorities and offered OHCHR’s support to review restrictive laws governing on-line expression,” Nada Al-Nashif told the 47-member session.

Michelle Bachelet in her press briefing also spoke about the commission’s willingness to assist the government on repeal and revision of certain provisions of the Digital Security Act; and on draft Data Protection Law and the OTT (Over The Top Platforms) regulations so that these meet international human rights standards.

Also Read

Form independent body for investigation: Bachelet tells govt

Nada Al-Nashif said Michelle Bachelet encouraged the establishment of an independent, specialised mechanism to investigate allegations of human rights violations, including enforced disappearances, by law enforcement agencies, particularly by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).

Bangladesh's government, however, has been denying the allegations of human rights violations and enforced disappearances.

As Bachelet in her final press briefing on 25 August in Geneva did not mention anything about Bangladesh, several ministers of Bangladesh claimed that the UN human rights commissioner has been satisfied with their explanation and thus the commission no longer has any concern about Bangladesh’s rights situation.

Later on 31 August, the commission’s spokesperson issued a separate statement clarifying the commission's stance. The statement said that Bachelet’s written statement at the final press briefing in Bangladesh reflected the commission’s stance on Bangladesh.

Nada Al-Nashif in Monday's speech reiterated the UN rights body's concern and expressed the commission’s willingness again to assist Bangladesh on human rights grounds.        

Also Read

Form independent body for investigation: Bachelet tells govt

Nada Al-Nashif also spoke about the necessity of freedom of speech and the right to hold peaceful demonstrations in the run-up to the next general election.

“In the polarising environment ahead of the next elections, it will be vital for the Government to ensure freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and for security forces to refrain from using excessive force against protests,” she said. 

The acting high commission also pointed out that human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and victims’ families should not face reprisals or sanctions for their advocacy work. 

Also Read

Take Bachelet's advice into consideration

The government rejected an appeal against the scrapping of registration of the human rights organisation Odhikar after the visit of Bachelet.

The acting high commissioner also informed the session of the latest rights situation in vulnerable countries. She mentioned the serious socio-economic consequences of war, including severe fuel shortages and threats to food security in some of the poorest countries.

The session will continue till 7 October.

Volker Türk of Austria will replace Bachelet. The UN general assembly approved his appointment on 8 September but it is yet to be announced when he will take charge.