EU must use dialogue to demand government protect human rights defenders and address rights abuses

(Dhaka, Paris) The European Union (EU) must use the upcoming human rights dialogue with Bangladesh to demand the government protect human rights defenders (HRDs) and other civil society actors and cease undermining civil and political rights, FIDH and its member organisation Odhikar said today.

FIDH and Odhikar made the call ahead of the EU-Bangladesh Sub-group on Good Governance and Human Rights, which is scheduled to meet on 24 April 2018 in Dhaka. In conjunction with their call, the two organisations released a briefing paper that provides an update on the human rights situation in Bangladesh since the last meeting of the Sub-group, held in December 2016.

“While the Bangladeshi government should be commended for receiving hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees, it should not use this humanitarian issue as a shield to hide behind, as it continues to commit grave and systematic violations of the rights of its own people. These acts range from the disappearance of hundreds of people each year, to the mass arrests of opposition supporters, and the shrinking of space for civil society."

Guissou Jahangiri, FIDH Vice-President

Enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and torture in custody have become rampant in Bangladesh in recent years and have been repeatedly used to undermine the opposition and other government critics. Perpetrators enjoy nearly total impunity for these horrific abuses. With a large-scale government crackdown on the opposition underway since earlier this year, many of the almost 5,000 opposition supporters arrested from January to March 2018 remain detained and face torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

Meanwhile, HRDs, civil society organisations, bloggers, and journalists are subjected to threats and harassment by both the government and extremist groups, and their rights continue to be curtailed by repressive laws that are inconsistent with international standards relating to the rights to freedom of expression and association.

“With elections due in December, it is now more important than ever that civil society be given the space it needs to contribute to Bangladesh’s future. The EU must stand with those whose voices are consistently being silenced by a government that has been unwilling to address human rights abuses.”

Adilur Rahman Khan, Odhikar Secretary

FIDH and Odhikar also call on the EU to raise key concerns related to pervasive discrimination and violence against women, widespread labor rights violations, and the authorities’ repeated failure to protect the rights of indigenous communities. These calls are consistent with the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ March 2018 Concluding Observations on Bangladesh.

The joint briefing paper also highlights the ongoing humanitarian and protection needs of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and calls on the EU to press the Bangladeshi government to ensure that any relocation or repatriation of Rohingya refugees is voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable.

Press contact
FIDH: Ms. Maryna Chebat (French, English) - Tel: +33648059157 (Paris)
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