EU Special Representative for Human Rights Eamon Gilmore has expressed his concern over the health condition of jailed Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairperson Khaleda Zia. Gilmore also raised issues regarding labour right, digital security act, extrajudicial killing and the Nusrat murder case.
“I honour the High Court verdict against Khaleda Zia, but I am concerned about her health,” Gilmore said during a meeting with Law Minister Anisul Huq at the minister’s residence at the capital’s Gulshan on Monday.
The meeting was organized to discuss issues related to Rohingya refugees, extrajudicial killings, and the imprisonment of Khaleda Zia. Later, journalists were briefed over the outcome of the meeting.
Law Minister Anisul Haq said the country’s courts have ordered Khaleda Zia’s imprisonment as per the law and the high court extended the jail term. “The government has nothing to do here,” he added.
The EU special representative said the EU wants to play a positive role in the repatriation of Rohingya refugees, and also expressed concern over the Digital Security Act and extrajudicial killings in the country.
Talking to the law minister, Gilmore raised issues regarding labour right, digital security act and the Nusrat murder case.
“The European Union attaches great importance to the freedom of expression and freedom of the media. Our concern is that the digital security act has to be placed in that context that to what extent the digital security act infringes the freedom of expression and freedom of media,” he said.
On the Rohingya issue, Gilmore said: “We have already provided quiet a lot of assistance in particular levels, diplomatic levels and also financial support through a humanitarian arm. The EU delegation will visit the Rohingya camps soon. The situation in Cox’s Bazar and the issue of the Rohingya repatriation will be part of the formal dialogue which the EU will hold with Myanmar later this week.”
“It is a matter of great concern for us,” the envoy said on extra-judicial killings. In reply, the minister said law enforcement agencies are trying to identify those responsible and will bring them to justice.
Saying violence against women, particular levels of domestic violence has been a matter of enormous concern for the EU, Gilmore also said it was the first time that an EU delegation had visited Bangladesh on human right issues.
In this context Anusul Haq said, “We assured the EU that such case of human rights violations will be solved as soon as possible.”
EU urges govt to address rights issues, ensure inclusiveness
The European Union wants Bangladesh to address the issues relating to inclusiveness of the political process, space for the civil society and freedom of the press, says a UE statement released later on Tuesday.
“In Dhaka, I have held various meetings devoted to a wide range of human rights issues, including core labour standards, an area in which Bangladesh needs to make urgent progress,” EU Special Representative for Human Rights Eamon Gilmore said in the statement following his visit to Bangladesh on June 10-11.
Human rights, including labour standards, are an important element in bilateral EU-Bangladesh relations as well as in the trade relations under the “Everything But Arms” trade scheme, he said, terming Bangladesh an important country for the EU.
During his visit here, Gilmore had meetings with Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anisul Huq and acting UN resident coordinator and country directors of ILO, UNHCR, IOM, UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA, UN as well as with representatives of NGOs and trade unions.
He also visited the refugee camps and met the Rohingya refugees and local communities as well as the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mohammed Abul Kalam, in Cox’s Bazar.
Besides, Gilmore discussed the aspects of rule of law and law enforcement, elections, freedom of assembly, women’s and children’s rights, human rights cooperation in the UN, rights of minorities and the implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord, the statement said.
Gilmore termed Bangladesh’s hospitality for the Rohingya refugees, including by the host communities, an example of solidarity to be followed by all.
The EU is making every effort to support Bangladesh in the important humanitarian mission, at financial and political levels, and it has mobilised €104.5 million since 2017, added the statement.
Washington also concerned about certain Digital Security Act provisions
The United States (US) has also expressed its concerns about certain provisions of the much-talked about Digital Security Act and called upon Bangladesh to redouble its efforts in the protection of human rights. In the 7th Bangladesh-US partnership dialogue held at the Department of State in Washington on Monday, both countries laid emphasis on the need for Myanmar to address the root causes of the Rohingya crisis, and to create the conditions necessary for voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable repatriation of the persecuted people to their homes in Rakhine.
The dialogue –a forum to discuss all bilateral issues between the countries –was co-chaired by Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque and US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale. The two governments reaffirmed their commitment to an enduring partnership, highlighting close cooperation on security, development, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and counterterrorism, said a joint statement issued Monday night. Both sides agreed to continue to work closely to advance a shared vision of a free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and secure Indo-Pacific region.
Both delegations discussed issues regarding freedom of expression and assembly. Bangladesh reaffirmed its commitment to the rule of law, and highlighted Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s declaration that her government would focus on human rights and anti-corruption measures.
Apart from raising concerns regarding certain provisions of the Digital Security Act, the US encouraged Bangladesh to redouble its efforts in protecting human rights and combating human trafficking.
The US lauded Bangladesh’s generosity in hosting more than one million Rohingyas from Myanmar. Bangladesh also thanked the US for its continuous support, including providing over $494 million in humanitarian assistance to Bangladesh and Myanmar since August 2017.
The US is committed to engaging the international community to mobilize additional assistance for the forcibly displaced Rohingyas temporarily staying in Bangladesh.
The two governments also agreed to continue to work closely with the global community, including the United Nations and other international organizations, to continue to support the Rohingyas and their host communities, and to put effective pressure on Myanmar for a resolution of the crisis.
The two leaders acknowledged the prevalent challenge of terrorism, and the importance of adhering to human rights obligations while advancing security objectives.
The two governments shared cyber security objectives, and agreed to explore cooperation, training, and technical support to advance mutual interests in this regard.
Washington, pending congressional approval, is also committed to providing additional security assistance for Bangladesh to increase maritime domain awareness, piracy, and regional security coordination in the Bay of Bengal.
(Shakhawat Hossain is Dhaka-based freelance Journalist and Political Commentator)