US State Dep’t human rights report on Bangladesh lacks credibility



Sufian Siddique

Independent researcher and freelance columnist, Dhaka.

On March 20, the  State Department released a global report titled “2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices”.  The report is based on the human rights situation in 198 countries and territories.  The section on Bangladesh in the report highlights the issues of extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture, prison conditions, arrest, detention, or arrest process, and treatment of prisoners; the judiciary; threats to human rights activists, civil society, and government critics; harassment; torture; freedom of expression; and respect for civil rights. Apart from this, restrictions on the media, right to peaceful assembly and organization, religious freedom, protection of ‘refugees’, access to basic services, freedom of participation in the political process, corruption, lack of transparency in government activities, discrimination and social oppression, human trafficking, workers’ rights are mentioned.


Analysis showed that the US human rights report has “fundamental weaknesses” and “errors.” There is no qualitative difference between the 2021 and 2022 reports. The report incorporated data from open sources. It reveals a contradictory position.  Many times it is said from the American side that freedom of media and freedom of speech are being curtailed. But the report contains many examples of open source and proves that the government does not stifle the creation of news.


Another observation is that the report makes reference to some NGOs, INGOs, and organizations representing civil society, one of which is Odhikar. It is clearly found that Odhikar has no valid papers or license to work. The application they made to renew their license was rejected.  There is no opportunity to look at any civil organization or non-governmental aid organization that has a political history or political identity from the point of view of neutrality. If such weaknesses persist, the report loses its acceptability.


They collected the information from various anti-government and biased sources. Collecting information from organizations that are not registered is illegal or unethical. Bangladesh should request that not only the United States but other states stay away from these organizations and take them into consideration as per the laws of the country.


A prime minister has only as much power as he needs to have. A friendly state has no moral right to doubt or question its degree of application or otherwise.  In a presidential-based government, he can have many things at his command. It is part of the constitution and how their government is run. So can we say that the president is the only powerful person in that country? But that is not the case. Everyone knows how laws are made in the parliamentary democracy of Bangladesh. There is an unfortunate tendency to limit the constitutional office to a single term.


The report  on the abuse of power by the country’s security forces has led to a data breach.  The number of missing persons is listed here as 81. This number will be 76. In this regard, it is very vaguely stated in 76 that Bangladesh has claimed to identify 10 persons. The matter was mentioned in the report as if it had not been addressed. But here  It is unequivocally true that after receiving the information about those 10 people, the United Nations did their own verification, and already 10 people have been removed from the list of 76. So it is not that Bangladesh is making a claim on the matter.


Looking at extrajudicial killings in the United States, it can be seen that from 2013 to 2019, 7,666 people were killed by police, 996 in 2020, and 1,000 in 2021-22.  In a country where an average of 1,000 people are killed by the police every year, the question is how much moral right there is to question other countries.


Although the report released by the US State Department states that incidents of disappearances decreased in Bangladesh last year, But there is no mention of the authority taking action on the disappearances or the return of many missing persons, and all these disappearances are filled with rights reports. The US human rights report’s allegation that the government has impunity for abuse of power and corruption by the security forces is not true. If someone is killed in a gunfight by the security forces, if the security forces fire in self-defense, an inquiry is arranged by an executive magistrate in every case. They are investigated and punishment is also prescribed depending on the investigation.  If the Executive Magistrate feels that the incident has been done with injustice or carelessness, it is referred to the Judicial Department.


At the beginning of the report, it is said that the Awami League won for the third time in the 2018 elections in Bangladesh. It is said that this election is not free and fair. But no major objection was ever made in the international arena about this election. If Washington is worried about Bangladesh, why did they express this opinion so late and when the elections are ahead? Such news is not pleasant after four years of elections. It is considered such efforts only in US interest. Thus, the entire report is riddled with inconsistencies, confusion, and misinformation.


There are many questions about the US election. Donald Trump has not yet accepted defeat in the election. In view of that, the attack on Capitol Hill under the leadership of Donald Trump has never happened in our country. So before questioning the election, they need to look at the questions they have about their own electoral system or the attacks on Capitol Hill after their election.


When a report is made on a friendly country, it should be given an opportunity to defend itself before it is published. The United States has made such promises at various times. But as usual, this time they did not keep their promises.


By making and publishing the reports, the USA always tries to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. Human rights are a universally accepted term. Bangladesh is also working to promote human rights, law, peace, and harmony in the country. Bangladesh has its own human rights commission. The legal codes of Bangladesh ensure the protection of human rights in Bangladesh.


Sufian Siddique

Independent researcher and freelance columnist, Dhaka.

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