86ps human rights defenders face various obstacles, CGS report says
The overall human rights situation in the country deteriorated in the past decade while Human Rights Defenders (HRDS) are being subjected to threats, harassment, intimidation, and persecution from state and non-state actors. Legal and extra-legal measures are being used by the government and state agencies to deter the Defenders from their efforts to uphold the inalienable rights of the people.
This has been revealed at a report titled ‘Who defends the defenders ? The predicament of human rights activists in Bangladesh’ done by Center for Governance Studies.
Illinois State University, USA’s distinguished professor and non-resident senior fellow of Atlantic Council Ali Riaz, who was the principal investigator of the report, shared the outcome of the work at a city hotel on Saturday.
More than 46 per cent of the respondents have rated the human rights situation in the country worst or near worst. 62 per cent of the respondents rated the overall environment for their work as 'very unsafe and unsafe’.
The report stated that as many as 86 per cent of the HRDs of grassroots said they face various obstacles in their work. More than 46 per cent of the respondents have rated the human rights situation in the country worst or near worst. 62 per cent of the respondents rated the overall environment for their work as 'very unsafe and unsafe’.
The CGS report said the obstacles the HRDs face come from sources connected to the state. Law enforcement agencies, state intelligence agencies, government officials have been identified as sources by 42.3 per cent of respondents while ruling party activists are identified as the source by 23.7 per cent of respondents.
Threats, harassment, intimidation or persecution forced 28.6 per cent respondents to scale down their work and 10.7 per cent to leave their areas, said Ali Riaz referring to the finding of the report.
More than one thirds of victims (36 per cent) of threats and harassment, including the HRDs, does not report to the authorities about the incident.
20.5 per cent of respondents believe that the reason of underreporting the lack of trust in the legal system, 20.5 per cent thinks fear of retribution from the perpetrators, 17.8 per cent believes absence of proper investigations is to blame.
“The United Nations, since the adoption of the resolution in the General Assembly in 1998, has been underscoring the need for the protection of the HRDs and reminded the states through the 2015 resolution to refrain from, and ensure adequate protection from, any act of intimidation or reprisal against human rights defenders. Although Bangladesh voted in favour of both resolutions, it has yet to put in any legal safeguard measures for the HRDs,” the report adds.
The report also blamed National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), a constitutionally mandated entity, for failing to live up to expectations in protecting the rights of the victims and the HRDs.
NHRC’s chairman Kamal Uddin Ahmed, who was present, however, denied the allegation saying that the commission does much work but gets little media focus.
He also raised questions about the sample size of the report, which was 50. Ali Riaz later defended the sample size as standard.
Noted lawyer ZI Khan Panna said, “A country cannot function smoothly without the rule of law. Democracy is already in auction in our country. Those who have money can purchase nomination and be elected as member of the parliament”
He also said the country is being run by the police and bureaucrats and not politicians as they have become syndicate of businessmen, smugglers or black money holders.
ZI Khan Panna also blasted the judiciary saying that people don’t have any trust in it.
New Age editor Nurul Kabir said all governments try to brand HRDs who take the issue to human rights violation to international community as ‘unpatriotic’. He said it’s the governments’ narrative, whoever that government is , that those who take the local issues to of the international level are tarnishing the country’s image.
He added that any citizen has the all the rights to complain against the government or non-governmental authorities who infringe my rights to international community since the government is member of those bodies.
In this globalised world, the problem of any country cannot be solved at a national level. We have to address all our problems or problems of other communities both at the national and international levelNurul Kabir, Editor of New Age
“In this globalised world, the problem of any country cannot be solved at national level. We have to address all our problems or problems of other communities both at the national and international level,” Nurul Kabir added.
Lawyer and rights activist Sara Hossain emphasized on effective implementation of laws to safeguard HRDs.
Not only the Digital Security Act, but other colonial laws in place in our country should be amended, she added.
CGS’ executive director Zillur Rahman in his introductory speech emphasised on the need for more favourable environment for the HRDs.
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and the Asia Foundation provided financial support for conducting the survey, said the CGS report.