HR situation in Bangladesh remains bleak: US

Diplomatic Correspondent

The United States on Thursday said the most serious human rights problems in Bangladesh were arbitrary arrests, regulation of online speech, and poor working conditions and labour rights.
Other pressing human rights issues referred to in the US human rights country report 2013 included extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions, weak judicial capacity and lengthy pretrial detentions.
The report was released in Washington on Thursday.
US secretary of state John Kerry released the 2013 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices commonly known as the Human Rights Reports.
The report criticised the Bangladesh authorities for failing at times to maintain effective control over security forces that reportedly committed human rights abuses.
It said the authorities infringed on citizens’ privacy rights. Politically motivated violence and pervasive official corruption remained serious problems.
It noted that some nongovernmental organisations faced legal and informal restrictions on their activities. Women suffered from unequal treatment.
The report said many children were compelled to work, particularly in the informal sector, due either to economic necessity or in some instances trafficking.  It said discrimination against persons with disabilities was a problem, especially for children seeking admittance to public school.
The report noted that instances of societal violence against religious and ethnic minorities persisted, although many government and civil society leaders claimed these acts had political or economic motivations and should not be attributed wholly to religious beliefs or affiliations.
It said child marriage of girls was a problem. Discrimination against persons based on their sexual orientation continued.
The report observed that official corruption and related impunity remained problems. Weak regard for the rule of law not only enabled individuals, including government officials, to commit human rights violations with impunity but also prevented citizens from claiming their rights.
As in recent years, the report said, the government did not take comprehensive measures to investigate and prosecute cases of security force abuse and killings.
It said the constitution provided for the rights to life and personal liberty; however, the media and local and international human rights organisations reported that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
It said the government neither released statistics on total killings by security personnel nor took comprehensive measures to investigate cases, despite previous statements by high-ranking officials that the government would show ‘zero tolerance’ and fully investigate all extrajudicial killings by security forces.
The legal aid and human rights NGO Ain O Salish Kendra  reported that during the first nine months of 2013, security forces, including the RAB, had committed an estimated total of 146 killings.
It said disappearances and kidnappings, some committed by security services such as the RAB and the Criminal Investigation Department, continued during the year. According to prominent local human rights NGO Odhikar, from January through September, there were 14 disappearances allegedly involving security personnel, compared with 24 in 2012.
On corruption, the report said the law provided criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively. Human rights groups, the media, the Anti-Corruption Commission and other institutions had reported government corruption during the year. Officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.
About freedom of speech, it said the constitution provided for these rights, but the government sometimes failed to respect freedom of speech and press. There were some limitations on freedom of speech; perceived misrepresentations or ‘defamations’ of Islam sometimes garnered condemnation. Some journalists self-censored their criticisms of the government due to fear of harassment and reprisal.
The report contains more than 15,000 words dealing with various areas, including freedom of peaceful assembly and association, Internet freedom, trafficking in person and labour rights protection of refugees.

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