So if there is any ‘conspiracy’ concerning human rights violations, this has been carried out by many persons, institutions, countries and the UN all together. This conspiracy is a sweet conspiracy. Without such conspiracy, there would be no end to brutality in various countries around the world.

Human rights are universal and so no matter where enforced disappearance takes place, other countries have the right to speak up. This modern perception of human rights emerged in the backdrop of World War II with the creation of the United Nations. The UN Human Rights Council is one of the main international bodies that monitors human rights. The main function of this council at present is to organise the Universal Periodical Review (UPR). Under this review, every member state of the UN comes under review once in every four years.

In this review, the human rights council takes into consideration the report of the UN high commissioner for human rights, questions raised by other states and the answers provided by the concerned state. There is also scope for national and international non-government human rights organisations and think tanks to submit their reports, to question and seek answers. The main objective to find out about the human rights situation of all the countries by means of open discussion and to provide the concerned countries with recommendations and assistance to improve the situation if so required.

The international monitoring of human rights is carried out by committees formed by means of various human rights agreements. Non-government organisations have the scope to inform the various committees of their views. Complaints were made to UPR and some of the committees accusing the various Bangladesh forces of enforced disappearance, killings and other serious human rights violations. These complaints were made openly and in front of government representatives.

Let me give a few examples. As a member state of the international convention against torture, Bangladesh submitted its report 20 years late in July 2019. After taking all views into consideration while perusing the report, the committee on torture in its concluding observation came up with criticism about Bangladesh’s human rights situation. The main contentions were to do with the numerous and consistent incidents of enforced disappearances and torture by officials of the state, refusal to accept cases, and negligence in investigations.

Specific allegations of torture, unwarranted arrests, detention, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killing were made against RAB, The committee made certain recommendations to bring all this to a halt. These included granting permission to the nine international inspection teams who sought to come to Bangladesh regarding enforced disappearance, torture, unlawful detention and so on. Bangladesh till date has not given any proper reply.

The 29 stakeholders who made complaints of serious human rights violations in the Human Rights Council’s 2018 UPR, included various local and foreign human rights organisations and think tanks. Of these, the International Commission of Jurists and the Human Rights Watch directly accused the law enforcement agencies. Reviewing various facts and figures, as well as Bangladesh’s response, UPR made 251 recommendations. While Bangladesh responded “agreed” to some, it responded with “noted” to the anti-enforced disappearance agreement and other stringent protocol to beef up international monitoring.

In order to sidestep international standards, while signing the convention against torture, Bangladesh declared that it would take measures only in accordance to the prevailing laws of the land. Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland and other states strongly criticised this.

It is clear that no country under the international human rights system can avoid the responsibility of serious human rights violations. Under this system there is extensive scope for the participation of various local and foreign human rights organisations, non-government representatives and various other states. In many cases these organisations collect primary information and this is published in the media of the accused countries.

Bangladesh is no exception. There are various repressive measures in this country against the media including black laws, restrictions on advertisements, barring from programmes at the prime minister’s office and so on. Even so, whatever little they manage to publish about the human rights violations is enough to show an appalling picture. If the media could function freely, an even worse state of affairs would have been revealed, as we can gauge from the criminal doings of the Teknaf OC Pradip. If the media could have revealed the innumerable killings that took place before the Sinha killing in Teknaf, the statements of those who returned from enforced disappearance, the refusal to accept cases at the police stations and other such violations of the law, then we perhaps would come to know about many more incidents as the Pradip case.

Revealing such incidents is not conspiracy. According to the international human rights conventions and our constitution, this too is a human right.

Rather than crying “conspiracy, conspiracy,” the government should take to trial the incidents of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killing. It should make an effort to implement the recommendations of institutions such as the human rights council. It does not seem that the government has any such good intention

When there are murders, enforced disappearances or incidents of torture, those who commit such acts are the ones responsible. If Bangladesh is criticised in the international arena or faces action because of all this, they are the ones responsible. The ones who bring about the accusations are not the ones responsible. Under the international protocol, all people and organisations have the right to bring about complaints of human rights violations. It may be possible to gain political mileage in the country by terming such rights as conspiracies, but this will hardly weaken or mislead the international monitoring system.

Bangladesh does not have the clout and power of China and Russia to evade such protocol, nor does it have the long tradition of inflexibility as North Korea or Myanmar. That is why there is fear of international sanctions being imposed on Bangladesh. It may even have to stand trial in some court at home or abroad for the crimes of violating human rights.

So rather than crying “conspiracy, conspiracy,” the government should take to trial the incidents of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killing. It should make an effort to implement the recommendations of institutions such as the human rights council. It does not seem that the government has any such good intention.

* Asif Nazrul is professor of law at Dhaka University

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