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Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review


3 February 2009 (afternoon)
For use of information media; not an official record

· The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group this afternoon reviewed the fulfilment of human rights obligations by the Bangladesh, during which 48 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.

· Presenting the national report of Bangladesh was Dipu MONI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh, who, while noting that a new Government had taken office in Bangladesh recently, stated that her country’s commitment to human rights was ingrained in its aim to establish a people’s government in Bangladesh in the truest sense of the term. It was the belief of the Government of Bangladesh that there could not be a true government unless basic human rights were enjoyed by all the people in the country. The 2008 parliamentary elections witnessed the participation of an unprecedented number of voters; more than 80 million voters were registered. For the first time in Bangladesh the number of women voters outnumbered men voters. The State of Emergency was lifted weeks before the elections and allowed for the full restoration of fundamental rights and allowed free functioning of the judiciary, media and political parties. It was noted that national report of Bangladesh was the result of broad consultations with various stakeholders and the participation with civil society had been particularly rewarding.

The Constitution of Bangladesh embodied the principles and provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and guaranteed human rights to all the citizens in the country without discrimination, she added. Bangladesh was a State party to all major international human rights instruments. On the institutional side, a number of reforms had been undertaken to strengthen rule of law and good governance. The most important among those was the separation of the judiciary from the executive branch. Moreover, the process of establishing a national human rights commission had been initiated, in line with the Paris Principles. The Election Commission was also reconstituted, in 2007, and given more autonomy, particularly in terms of oversight, recruitment and finance. Similarly, the Rules of Procedure of the Anti-Corruption Commission had been reformulated.

As regards poverty, the head of delegation noted that more than half of Bangladesh’s budgetary resources were allocated for poverty reduction activities and the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper focused on the poor, especially women. A wide range of safety-nets had been put in place to address multi-dimensional challenges faced by the poor and the vulnerable. The Government placed particular emphasis on education; the education sector received the single largest share of Bangladesh’s annual budget (around 15%). In the health sector, the Government formulated the National Health Policy in 2000 the principle thrust of which was to ensure basic healthcare without discrimination. The Government had adopted a National Food Policy to ensure sustained food security for all. It was noted that Bangladesh was able to contain the impact of the global food crisis. On the civil and political rights front, steps had been taken to update and improve the Police Act of 1961. The process of setting up a Victim Support Centre and a Criminal Intelligence Analysis Unit was underway.

A foremost goal of the Government of Bangladesh in the filed of human rights was to bring to justice all those who committed the most atrocious crimes against humanity during the country’s war of national liberation. The Parliament of Bangladesh had passed a unanimous resolution in response to a nation’s call, that there will be a trial of the perpetrators and the victims may expect redress. The Government intended to resurrect due process, expunge judicial modalities and objectives, and promote political harmony and reconciliation. A major area of concern of the Government has been the ending the culture of impunity and had initiated the trial of the killers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibut Rahman during the previous term of government.

Women in Bangladesh were increasingly assuming leadership roles both at the national and local levels, she added. The participation of women in the formal labour market had significantly increased in livelihood patterns and economic expansion. The Government had also undertaken to stop violence against women and, among other things, had set up One-Stop Crisis Centres (OCC) for victims of violence. On the economic front, poor women constituted the overwhelmingly largest group of beneficiaries of both government and non-government micro-credit programmes. Special measures had been taken to address feminization of poverty. On children, there was a separate ministry for targeted interventions on children’s welfare. The National Children’s Council was the highest policy-level body to monitor enforcement of child-related laws and rights. The Government also had a National Plan of Action against Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children including Trafficking. The Government was also attentive to the rights of persons with disabilities.

· During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included efforts to reduce hunger and poverty and to improve the living conditions of people in the country; the priority given the promotion and protection of the rights of women; the increased role of women in political life; the progress made in the education sector; successful vaccination campaigns in the country; the institutional reforms undertaken in the country towards the realization of human rights; the holding of free and fair parliamentary elections in December 2008; the success of the micro-credit schemes in the country; the accession to the core international human rights instruments; and the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission.

· Issues and questions raised by the Working Group, comprised of the 47 members of the Council, and observers participating in the interactive discussion related to the challenges and measures taken to overcome social difficulties impeding the realization of women’s rights; the measures intended to ensure that the legal instruments on women’s rights were applied in practice; steps to ensure gender equality; the follow up to the recommendations made by the CEDAW; efforts to adopt a comprehensive approach to address violence against women and girls; the measures to prohibit child labour and to implement the national plan of action on child labour; the measures to protect children against violence and other violations of their rights; plans to increase the number of birth registrations; whether the Government intended to withdraw its reservation to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child; and information on plans and laws targeted to protect disabled and poor children.

Other questions pertained to the role, mandate and activities of the National Commission of Human Rights; the timetable to accede to the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees; whether Bangladesh was undertaking any short-term strategies to meet its commitment under the Millennium Development Goals and how successful they have been so far; the status of the pending visits of the Special Procedures; the measures to guarantee the social welfare of minorities in ethnic communities; the lessons learned from the experience of Bangladesh with regard to the challenge of realizing the right to food; measures intended to confront the plight of indigenous peoples; and the specific requirements in terms of technical assistance and capacity building and training in the area of human rights.

· A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: To continue its efforts to combat poverty, particularly poverty among women; to continue to take targeted an time-bound action for a sustainable development and poverty alleviation; to continue its strategy plan launched in 2005 to eliminate social and economic disparities in the country; to share its experience and best practices in the areas of poverty reduction with other developing countries; to continue work with concerned parties to improve the health situation in the country, particularly to promote women’s and maternal health; to continue efforts to draw up a national plan to provide health care to all without discrimination; to continue efforts to ensure the realization of the right to food for those in the country; to continue its efforts to promote the right to education, particularly for girls; and to continue to promote formal education in the country.

Other recommendations included: To continue efforts to realize the rights of women and to empower women; to lift reservations to CEDAW; to adopt a Family Code complying with the provisions of CEDAW; to take steps to eliminate gender disparities; to adopt an action plan to address wage inequalities and that maternity leave was made available in all public and private employments; to ensure the full and effective implementation of the existing laws and policies in order to protect the rights of women and children and eliminate all forms of discrimination; to take steps to eradicate child labour; to continue combating discrimination and violence against women and girls by creating effective laws as well as implementing them effectively; to develop a national action plan to combat violence against women; to review its domestic legislation and practice with a view of bringing them in compliance with international obligations in particular in areas of the protection of children against kidnapping and trafficking and as regards the juvenile justice system; to share best practices and experiences in the Government’s efforts to address the problem of trafficking in women and children; to take measures towards the effective implementation of the National Plan of Action against Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children including Trafficking; and to decriminalize same sex activities.

Additionally, States recommended that Bangladesh take further measures aimed at raising awareness of human rights among the population; to continue efforts with the Human Rights Council on the issue of climate change and human rights; with the support of the international community to strengthen efforts to mitigate the negative effects of climate change; that the international community assist Bangladesh to combat the adverse effects of climate change; to support refugees by providing them with a temporary shelter, food and medical assistance; to ratify the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees; to continue efforts to strengthen national human rights mechanisms; to continue efforts to develop the work of its national institution for human rights; to extend a standing invitation to all United Nations Special Procedures; for the international community to provide support to bang towards the promotion and protection of human rights and attainment of the MDGs; to consider ratifying the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrants Workers and Members of Their Families; and to fully implement the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord as a matter of priority and that a time frame for its full implementation was developed.

Another set of recommendations included: To ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture; to establish a moratorium on executions; to consider amending legislation on the death penalty; to organize training and capacity building activities for law enforcement personnel, judges, prosecutors, and journalists in the area of human rights; to further strengthen the judiciary in the country; to address the culture of impunity for human rights violations by law enforcement agencies; to hold all persons acting on behalf of the authorities accountable for acts of torture and harassment of civilians; to take steps to protect human rights defenders, in particular journalists; to continue efforts in combating corruption; to improve prison conditions; to take steps to devise a national strategy to deliver justice to include the police, the judiciary, civil society and government; to investigate complaints concerning the discrimination of members of minority religions while developing educational and awareness programmes; to consider enhancing the protection of religious freedom by adopting legislative measures; and to address the problems of extrajudicial killings and torture by security forces.

· Members States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Nicaragua, France, Brazil, Malaysia, Pakistan, Chile, Indonesia, Bahrain, Egypt, Senegal, the Netherlands, Azerbaijan, Qatar, Mexico, India, China, Germany, Nigeria, Italy, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Korea and Slovenia.

· Observer States participating in the discussion were Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Laos People’s Democratic Republic, Singapore, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Bhutan, Australia, Vietnam, Nepal, Sudan, Czech Republic, Palestine, Morocco, Liechtenstein, Cambodia, the Holy See, Norway, Iran and Tunisia.

· The 15-person delegation of Bangladesh consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Human Rights Commission, the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, the Office of the Attorney General, the University of Dhaka and the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

· The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Bangladesh are Argentina, Egypt and the Philippines.

· In accordance with its institution-building package, the three documents on which State reviews should be based are information prepared by the State concerned, which could be presented either orally or in writing; information contained in the reports of treaty bodies and Special Procedures, to be compiled in a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and information provided by other relevant stakeholders to the UPR including non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders, academic institutions and research institutes, regional organizations, as well as civil society representatives, also to be summarized by OHCHR in a separate document. The reports on Bangladesh can be found here.

· The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Bangladesh on Thursday, 5 February.

· When the UPR Working Group continues its work tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. it will review the fulfillment of human rights obligations by the Russian Federation.

Additional information on the Universal Periodic Review mechanism can be located at the UPR webpage - http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx. To access the webcast for the UPR session please visit http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/index.asp.

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