Amnesty issues 10-point human rights charter for Bangladesh

Logo of Amnesty International

Amnesty International has issued a 10-point human rights charter ahead of the forthcoming national election and urged all contesting political parties to ensure that the protection and promotion of human rights is a core part of their plans for the country.

With the brief 10-point agenda, the rights organisation highlighted the obligations in accordance with the rights guaranteed by the country’s commitment to international treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESR), as well as by the constitution of Bangladesh.

The 10 points, listed with nor order or priority, are –

  1. Respect and protect freedom of expression and media freedom

  2. Protect the protest

  3. Sustainable solutions to the Rohingya crisis

  4. End impunity for enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions

  5. Protect women’s rights

  6. Protect the rights of religious minorities and indigenous peoples

  7. Abolish the death penalty

  8. Inclusive, sustainable responses to climate crisis

  9. End impunity for custodial deaths and torture

  10. Uphold corporate accountability and labour rights

Amnesty International also made some specific recommendations along with the calls.

Protect freedom of expression and media freedom:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release and drop all charges against all those charged under the Cyber Security Act, Digital Security Act, and ICT Act solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

  • Amend the Cyber Security Act in accordance with international human rights law and standards. Remove sections 21, 25 and 28 of the CSA which criminalize legitimate expression of opinions or thoughts and have been used to stifle peaceful dissent under the now repealed DSA.

  • Decriminalize defamation and end subjecting it to criminal sanctions such as fines or imprisonment. Defamation should exclusively remain a matter of civil law and civil litigation.

  • Introduce legislation to provide access to justice and effective remedies including adequate compensation for human rights violations, such as the rights to freedom of expression, privacy, and liberty and security of the person.

  • End the misuse of laws to harass and intimidate journalists.

Protect the protest

  • End the unnecessary and excessive use of force when responding to public demonstrations.

  • Fulfill Bangladesh’s obligations to protect and facilitate peaceful assembly and ensure that any responses (including restrictions) are lawful, necessary, proportionate, and in line with international standards.

  • Ensure that all arrests are carried out in line with due process safeguards and in accordance with international human rights law and standards, including but not limited to the right to a free and fair trial, the right to be informed of the reason for arrest and the place of detention,and the right to be brought promptly before a judge, and ensure access to legal counsel and Family

Sustainable solutions to the Rohingya crisis

  • Protect the rights of refugees as per international human rights law and investigate allegations of abuses by security forces and hold those responsible to account.

  • Ensure that journalists, representatives of the UN, civil society organizations, including donor and humanitarian agencies and human rights organizations, have unfettered access to Bhashan Char island, to independently assess conditions.

  • Ensure Rohingya children have access to appropriate and quality, formal education in a timely manner.

  • Respect the principle of non-refoulement by ensuring that Rohingya refugees are not transferred to any place, including their country of origin, where they may be at real risk of serious human rights abuses or violations.

  • Involve and consult the members of Rohingya refugee community, including women, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups, on decisions related to their relocation, repatriation, relief, and development.

  • Engage with neighbouring countries, regional organisations, and global stakeholders to find a comprehensive, inclusive and collaborative solution to the Rohingya crisis.

End impunity for enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions

  • Ratify the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance without reservations and incorporate it into the domestic legal system criminalizing enforced disappearances.

  • Accept the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances’ request to conduct an official visit to Bangladesh.

  • Ensure victims and families of disappeared people are given full and effective reparations to address any hardships they have endured, including compensation, restitution, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition.

  • Launch effective, independent and impartial investigations into the conduct of the Rapid Action Battalion, Detective Branch and other departments of law enforcement, particularly in relation to allegations of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings perpetrated by its agents.

Protect women’s rights

  • Ensure effective implementation of the existing laws to hold perpetrators of violence against women accountable and provide timely and adequate access to justice and reparation for victims and survivors.

  • Ensure effective access by women to judicial and legal services, including legal aid; provide adequate training for law enforcement officials to effectively interpret and enforce gender equality rights; and allow equal representation of women in the judiciary and law enforcement agencies.

  • Ensure that the victims and survivors of gender-based violence can access timely and adequate compensation, and set up a compensation fund for them.

  • Open more shelters and safe houses across the country, effectively disseminate information, and remove any restrictions that limit accessibility for women and children, such as requiring a police report or a court order to be admitted to a shelter/safe house.

Protect the rights of religious minorities and indigenous peoples

  • Enact the long-anticipated Anti-Discrimination Bill, introduced in parliament in April 2022, to outlaw discrimination on various grounds, such as gender, religion, ethnicity, and introduce a complaints mechanism for victims of discrimination to seek remedies.

  • Fully enact the human rights reforms that the Peace Accord called for, including protections of the rights of the Indigenous Peoples to their traditional lands.

  • Adopt special measures, including reinstating quotas in jobs and higher education scholarships, for the Indigenous Peoples to achieve effective equality and to secure their full and equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

  • Ensure constitutional guarantee for equality for minority communities and hold perpetrators of violence against minorities accountable.

Abolish the death penalty

  • Abolish the death penalty. Meanwhile, introduce an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty

  • Pending full abolition, bring national law in line with restrictions to the use of the death penalty set out under international law and standards, including narrowing the scope of the death penalty to the “most serious crimes”, interpreted by the UN Human Rights Committee as referring to offences involving intentional killing; and ensuring that proceedings in all capital cases meet international standards for a fair trial;

  • Raise awareness around studies showing that there is no conclusive evidence that the death penalty acts as a unique deterrent on crime, and the human rights violations associated with the use of this punishment.

Inclusive, sustainable responses to climate crisis

  • Initiate and implement a suitable action plan for the implementation of a special programme regarding climate change and ensuring sustainable development.

  • Make necessary action plans for capacity building for the people or groups of people of the affected and risky areas resulting from climate change, to upgrade their lives and mitigate short term and long term risks.

  • Prioritize the climate impacts in Bangladesh in bilateral and multilateral discussions with countries with high Co2 emissions.

End impunity for custodial deaths and torture

  • Conduct thorough, impartial and transparent investigations into custodial deaths and torture and hold perpetrators accountable, without recourse to the death penalty.

  • Provide prompt reparations for the victims, from the state including financial compensation medical care and rehabilitation.

  • Ratify the Optional Protocol to the ICCPR and issue a declaration under Article 22 of the Convention Against Torture so individuals facing violations of human rights guaranteed by these treaties can send complaints directly to the Human Rights Committee and Committee Against Torture.

Uphold corporate accountability and labour rights

  • Amend the definition of a child in the Bangladesh Labour Act to align it with the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child and Children Act 2013 and hold corporations accountable for employing child labour.

  • End violent repression of workers’ protests and conduct impartial investigations into the deaths of unionists and other protesters and hold perpetrators accountable.

  • Ensure that workers can exercise their right to freedom of association and collective bargaining by being able to form and join trade unions at the factory level, engage in genuine social dialogue with government authorities and factory owners, and enjoy the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to strike.

  • Ensure that garment factory workers earn an adequate living wage according to ILO standards.

  • Amend the Fifth Schedule to the Bangladesh Labour Act, so the existing statutorily capped lump sum amounts (i.e., 200,000 BDT for occupational deaths and 250,000 BDT for permanent disablement) are treated as the minimum and not maximum amount of compensation payable in the event of death or permanent disablement.

  • Introduce a provision in Chapter XII of the BLA that obliges Labour Courts to follow basic principles of damages assessment in tort law (e.g. factoring in the age and loss of earnings of the worker, number of dependents etc.) when adjudicating compensation cases under the BLA.

  • Introduce a national repository on workplace deaths and injuries to ensure transparency and fill the gap in official data. The repository should list the total number of workplace injuries and deaths in any given year alongside the total number of compensation claims filed in all Labour Courts.