Dhaka on Thursday expressed its disappointment at the US state department human rights reports which said human rights situation in Bangladesh worsened in part because of the state of emergency and postponement of the elections.
The government felt that the report prepared by the Bush administration was a ‘lack of balance,’ as it failed to mention the significant reforms measures taken by the caretaker government for ‘consolidating and sustaining democracy.’
The US state department released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2007 on Tuesday.
In a statement, the foreign ministry on Thursday said, ‘In accordance with its constitutional obligation, Bangladesh is committed to upholding human rights of all citizens.’
‘All, including the international community, know the circumstances which led to the announcement of the state of emergency in January 2007,’ it said.
The statement said, ‘It is understood that during the state of emergency some fundamental rights remain suspended. However, the government is extremely careful about enforcing such provisions so that the fundamental rights are not infringed on.’
The government, however, said the US report acknowledged various reforms initiatives taken by the caretaker government such as the separation of the judiciary from the executive, revision of the police act aimed at ‘adherence to human rights’ and ‘several major steps to improve the prison conditions.’
‘The report duly noted that there was a significant drop in the number of extra judicial killings, introduction of special training courses on human rights for the members of law enforcement agencies, including the Rapid Action Battalion,’ the statement said.
The government statement also said the US report noted persons charged with criminal offenses receiving due process, freedom of religion and ‘enhanced government efforts’ to combat human trafficking and improve labor condition.
The report further acknowledged the government’s efforts to relax the extent of limitations placed on the media by the emergency powers rules.
‘The government is, however, disappointed at the report’s lack of balance as evidenced in its failure to mention the significant reforms measures taken by the caretaker government for consolidating and sustaining democracy,’ said the government.
The measures, according to the government statement, include restructuring and empowering of the Election Commission, Public Service Commission and Anti-Corruption Commission.
‘The report could further mention the initiatives taken with a view to establishing a national human rights commission and promulgating the right to information ordinance,’ the statement said.
It further said, ‘These landmark reforms initiatives would significantly improve democratic practices leading to the promotion and protection of human rights in a sustained manner.’
The home affairs adviser, MA Matin, meanwhile, reacted to the report. He told reporters in his office that the US state department cannot make such statements.
He was talking with the reporters after presiding over a meeting of the cabinet committee on law and order.
The meeting, also attended by the home secretary and chiefs of different law enforcement agencies, discussed the report.
‘Many people may make many statements about us. But everything should be judged in our context,’ said the adviser, also a retired army official.
The report highlighted the interim government’s attempts at sending former prime ministers, Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, into exile.
‘The government imposed unofficial house arrests on former prime ministers Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia and made repeated efforts in the first six months of the year to force them into exile… Eventually, the government arrested both women on corruption charges, and at year’s end they were awaiting trial,’ the report said.
Reacting to the statement on the two detained former prime ministers, the home adviser said, ‘The US state department cannot say this… We have kept them [Hasina and Khaleda] [in jail] with dignity. We have respect for them.’