Human rights situation in B'desh discussed
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Human rights situation in B'desh discussed

A meeting of the UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group organised was held on Monday for a discussion with HE Sabiuddin Ahmed, High Commissioner of Bangladesh.

india Updated: Mar 23, 2006 20:42 IST
UK Bureau
UK Bureau

A meeting of the UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group organised by the Vice Chair, Lord Avebury, who is also Chair of the International Bangladesh Foundation, was held on Monday for a discussion with HE Sabiuddin Ahmed, High Commissioner of Bangladesh, expressing interest to meet a small group of British parliamentarians to discuss the human rights situation in Bangladesh.

The high commissioner presented the Bangladesh government's policies on attainment of the Millennium Development Goals and on the World Trade Organisation talks on reducing protectionism that harms Third World producers.

He dealt with a variety of questions on counter-terrorism and identifying the political masterminds behind the bomb attacks and assassinations in Bangladesh, as well as their financial backers; the protection of religious minorities; the promotion of good governance; mechanisms to ensure a level playing field at the forthcoming elections, in the presence of observers from the Commonwealth Secretariat and international human rights NGOs.

The High Commissioner of Bangladesh said that one has to look at Bangladesh within the context of a low economic starting point. Bangladesh had already met three of the ten United Nations Millennium Development Goals, in providing universal primary education for girls as well as boys; attaining gender parity in school enrolment in primary and secondary education and access to safe drinking water.

But still 35 per cent of the population was below poverty level and 30 per cent of its adult population illiterate.

Lord Avebury, while acknowledging Bangladesh's progress and praising the arrest of JMB chief Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai, said the economic problems were linked to the political process and human rights situation. He was keen to find out who provided cover and shelter to Bangla Bhai and who were their political masters.

Lord Avebury also wanted to see the perpetrators of the murders of Shah AMS Kibria and the attempted murders of the British High Commissioner Anwar Chowdhury and Sheikh Hasina brought to justice. He questioned about the neutrality of the future caretaker government.

Dr Charles Tannock MEP enquired about the Islamic radicalisation of politics, Pakistan's intelligence agency ISI, Jamaat-e-Islami and the Bangladesh Government's telecommunication minister's involvement in the extremist terrorist activities of the JMB and Bangla Bhai, whose existence the government had previously denied.

He said he does not want see the Jamaat to be a part of future Government.

Emily Thornberry MP and Baroness Whitaker while expressing their appreciation of interfaith tolerance in Bangladesh and its democratic credentials, they also expressed concern about political violence, and the prospects for the forthcoming election process.

The High Commissioner said that it was essential to keep the Jamaat-e-Islami within the constitutional process. The authorities had arrested 550 terrorists; charge sheets had been submitted against 123, while 250 cases had been filed and the courts had sentenced 40. A charge sheet had been framed against five people including a local BNP leader for the murder of Shah AMS Kibria.

Three persons had been arrested in connection with the attack on the leader of the opposition, Sheikh Hasina. He gave the meeting confidential information about the investigation of the attempted murder of the British High Commissioner, Anwar Chowdhury, in which bystanders had been killed.

He further said his government had accepted the opposition's demand to sit and discuss the reforms, when at last they had returned to Parliament after a long boycott, and he said that if agreement could be reached, anything was possible within the Constitution.

On the Ahmadiyya community, the High Commissioner said the government had taken firm action to prevent threatened violence by the Khatme Nabuwat, and that the community acknowledged that as a result there has been no violence against them in the last three months.

The meeting was also addressed by Lord Ahmed and Jeremy Corbyn MP. In attendance were Jarvis Matiya from the Commonwealth Secretariat, Abbas Faiz and Saskia Chilcot from Amnesty International and Brad Adams & Andrea Cotton from Human Rights Watch.

Lord Avebury thanked the High Commissioner for the extremely useful meeting and for his invitation to parliamentarians to observe the elections. He said that it had been an excellent opportunity to discuss the problems facing Bangladesh and he hoped that a further meeting could be arranged nearer to the elections.

First Published: Mar 23, 2006 20:42 IST