Author profile; Erina Haque is a Bangladesh affairs, Sino-Indo-Pak affairs, Myanmar, and Rohingya refugee affairs, an Afghan refugee affairs researcher, and a freelance writer. I wrote an article for your website. Please publish the article.
Decoding the Bangladesh narrative in the US human rights report
Last Wednesday altogether 9 districts and 211 upazilas across Bangladesh have been declared as homeless and landless free. The number of rehabilitated people is 3,856,505. The beneficiary includes widows, deserted women, bedes, low-caste people, hijras and climate refugees. This is a significant achievement in ensuring fundamental human rights. Bangladesh is lauded for its recent socio-economic development. It has made commendable progress in education and health sector, reducing gender gap, poverty elevation and handling climate change vulnerability. Despite national and international conspiracies the existing legal system has ensured the trial and punishment of the war criminals. Bangladesh has accommodated more than a million of Rohingyas, which demonstrate its commitment to protect human rights.
Some observation on the human rights report of the USA State Department (2022)
The currently published human rights report of the USA State Department gives some interesting perspective on human rights discourse. Since the report is quite big I will focus on few pertinent issues. The report starts with the claims that the 2018 national election of Bangladesh was not considered free and fair. Further it claims that the election witnessed low voter turnout, intimidation, irregularities, and violence during campaigns. The USA stood silent in 1970 when the Awami League won landslide victory in the election. Why democracy and rule of law was not their concern at that time? Since 1975 undemocratic governments have ruled Bangladesh for nearly 20 years which did not allow the State institutions to flourish. Since 2009 elections are taking place at periodic intervals which manifest formal democracy and the country is striving for substantive democracy.
The said USA 2022 report also states that “leaders and members of some political party in the country, could not exercise their constitutional freedoms of speech and assembly because of harassment by law enforcement authorities. But in reality, political parties in Bangladesh enjoy their political rights. They always protest in the street. Last 10 December, 2022 was the best example to Understand it. They can be critic against government. They are talking whatever they are thinking. Media alwyas promote their rights. Human chain, movement, protest are being organized regularly on the streets in the Capital Dhaka. We can not see any kind of government obstacle in this regard. Is not a freedom of specch, movement, political rights?
The report of the USA further mentions that the Rohingya refugees do not have any freedom of movement and “the government did not register births for nor extend citizenship to Rohingya refugees born in the country”. We have to remember that Bangladesh did not provide refugee status to the Rohingya; instead recognize them as forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals. Bangladesh is not a party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees or the 1967 Protocol. As a result, the government is not under legal obligation to uphold the basic rights enshrined in this treaty. Therefore freedom of movement, formal education, or livelihood opportunities could not be afforded to the Rohingya population. Bangladesh accommodated these destitute Rohingyas on humanitarian ground and the government is committed to repatriate this huge number of people who has the potential to spoil our national security. The concern of the USA for the Rohingyas can make one question apart from enacting Burma Act, what effective measure did the USA take to ensure human rights of these Rohingyas?
The report of the USA State Department also states that “the government prevented war crimes suspects from the 1971 independence war from leaving the country.” If the suspects of war crimes leave the country to avoid legal proceedings and later they do not return then how justice would be ensured? Bangladesh does not have agreement with many countries to repatriate criminals. History shows that even the USA did not take any initiatives to send back one of the murderers of Bangabandhu.
Referring Freedom House’s annual report the said USA report mentioned that “corruption is endemic”. According to Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), Bangladesh stood first among 180 countries in corruption index from 2001 to 2005. Gradually it became 13th in 2009, 16th in 2013 and 17th in 2017. TIB report shows that in the last 10 years the position of Bangladesh in corruption index remained the same. It is imperative to note that Bangladesh has made tremendous economic progress in recent years and many economists also opine that during the early years of development some corruption might take place. The government announced zero tolerance against corruption and now social movement against corruption is desirable.
The USA human rights report is based on the information of various non-governmental organizations. Some of these organizations are not non-partisan and have reputation of producing false news.
Human rightsU discourse: some perspective
The counter-terrorist response of 9/11 carried out in many parts of the world also marks human rights abuses. Human rights violations were considered as an inevitable part of that struggle. But those violations also fueled more terrorism, human rights abuses and mass migration. Though at times the USA imposes sanction on individuals and governments for committing human rights abuses it also forms alliance with abusive government and hence violates international human rights law. Tom Malinowski the former US Assistant Secretary of State once commented that some use human rights only as a club to hit governments they disagree with, while allowing those they are allied with to commit violations with impunity (Andrew Gilmour, March 2018). The USA enthusiastically proclaimed the rights of Iranians to protest for a better life without getting killed, but it is silent when it comes to Palestinian protestors doing the same thing.
The self declared ‘’Responsibility to Protect” invoked by the USA is viewed by many people beyond the west as examples of Western values and policies being imposed on them from outside. Wang Wenbin spokesman of Chinese Foreign Ministry remarked that the Human Rights Practices of Various Countries’ published by the US is an example of political lies and bias and shows US dominance and abuse. The double standard of the super powers and their selective approach to some extent enables the actual violators of human rights to commit more abuses. In the rapidly changing geo-political order human rights plays a major role in the rhetoric of the opposing sides. In essence human rights are subjected to the enormous challenge of manipulation of the superpowers which want to impose imperial designs on the world in the name of peace. Therefore, issue of human rights should be considered in the context of society, law and order situation, extremism, terrorism, growing intolerance and stability of the specific country.
Bangladesh understands human rights are not luxury and it is impossible to achieve sustainable development and peace without having human rights as a basis. The State of Bangladesh is committed to prevent abuses, protect rights and promote values not to please any superpower but to ensure fundamental rights of its citizens, human development and sustainable socio-economic growth. Hence constructive engagement through technical cooperation to promote human rights should be welcomed but any biased statement to establish dominance must be protested.
I am Erina Haque from Sweden. I wrote an article about the above-mentioned topic.