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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Gathering for human rights issues was meant for misleading propaganda

A number of countries from Europe, Asia, North and South America on Monday participated in the Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review on its third cycle, underway at Geneva. The countries collectively urged Bangladesh to safeguard freedom of expression. Moreover, the countries advised the Bangladesh government to reconsider the proposed Digital Security Act. Our Law Minister is also representing Bangladesh, reportedly to highlight efforts and achievements of the government.
The push for protecting freedom of expression in Bangladesh is getting more regular in recent times, and also foreign envoys stationed in Bangladesh have made the same request couple of months back. Yet the government remains silent and somewhat hesitant to openly discuss on crucial issues like the freedom of expression.
However, the representatives of a number of countries urged our Law Minister on specific issues. For instance, the representative from Norway called upon Bangladesh government to ensure the rights of journalists and human rights defenders. The country also requested Bangladesh to investigate rights abuses by state agencies. The New Zealand representative called for safeguarding freedom of assembly and political association, and implementing the Chottogram Hill Tracts Accord signed in 1997. Poland had asked to ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture. Portugal and Slovakia said to put an end to death penalty and the list went on with other countries.
Nevertheless, what's puzzling is that while responding to their plea, our Law Minister was repeatedly explaining the list of achievements of the government. On the other hand, he was portraying the opposition BNP as an undemocratic force. Our point is -- such international forums, meetings or seminars are not platforms for sycophancy and propaganda of development politics. The issues raised were human rights connected but Minister was not willing to face those issues. The Law Minister plainly executed the duty of a public spokesperson of the ruling party.
Even had the Minister responded by assuring the participant countries that - he and the government would look into the issues raised - he would have sounded more relevant. We know, the issues raised in the Universal Periodic Review are not new but the Law Minister's response in that regard was a poor show and out of the context.