The indifference of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is not only frustrating but also worrying when there are instances of human rights violation one after another. Speakers at a virtual discussion, oraganised by Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), on Monday said it is hard to expect human rights protection from an organisation that reflects the political views of the ruling party and recruitments are made on the basis of political affiliation.
When the Awami League government formed the NHRC in 2009 in response to demand from various quarters, it was expected that this organisation would play a central role in preventing human rights violation to some extent at least. At first, an educationist was made the head of this organisation. He at least went to places where there were major incidents of human rights violation. Later, government officials were recruited in the commission.
Many mockingly call it the “club of ex-bureaucrats”. The chairman of the current commission, also the only paid commissioner, is also a former bureaucrat. As a result, they are reluctant in investigating complaints against any government organisation.
Recently, as many as 51 people died in a fire at a factory of Hashem Foods. Earlier, several workers were shot dead in Chattogram’s Banshkhali. However, the NHRC remained silent in both the cases
One of the speakers at the seminar said rightfully, “The commission remains so cautious during the investigation that the responsible people cannot be identified.” That means they are more focused on saving their jobs than protecting human rights.
The critics at the seminar said although the NHRC could not do something, they could raise their voice at least in the past. But now they remain silent in most of the cases and ignore the incidents of human rights violation. ASK’s director Nina Goswami mentioned two incidents as examples. Recently, as many as 51 people died in a fire at a factory of Hashem Foods. Earlier, several workers were shot dead in Chattogram’s Banshkhali. However, the NHRC remained silent in both the cases.
It’s true that in any modern and democratic country, it is the duty of the government to protect human rights. But what is the remedy if any government organisation fails to fulfil this duty or a person in government itself is involved in human rights violation. In these cases, the human rights commission is supposed to come forward. It can recommend the government to take necessary legal steps based on the information they received or by investigating the incident spontaneously. The commission even can go to the High Court if needed.
At least the NHRC can draw the government's attention to say it has deviated from its way. Or they can say there is a mistake or injustice happened. However, now it seems that the members of the commission have lost their way.
To create an effective human rights commission the recruitment process must be transparent. It cannot be politically biased. The people, who are to be appointed here as the chairman or commissioner, must be committed to protect human rights. This organisation will never be successful if saving the job gets priority.
People do not want a commission which is powerless and unable to play any role in protecting human rights.