Bangladesh: The land of Kangaroo justice

South Asia Human Rights Index 2008, August 1, 2008

Asian Centre for Human Rights

New Delhi:  The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) today releases a comparative assessment of the human rights records of South Asian governments at a press conference in New Delhi.

The “South Asia Human Rights Index 2008” finds that under the ACHR’s index scoring system Sri Lanka (with 52 points) is the worst human rights violator in South Asia followed by Bangladesh (45), Bhutan (43),
Pakistan (41), Maldives (23), Nepal (24) and India (24). Afghanistan has not been included for indexing purpose. Afghanistan’s security is ensured by international forces over which the government of Afghanistan has no mechanism to establish accountability – a necessary condition for indexing.

The indexing system is based on comparative assessment of nine thematic issues crucial for the enjoyment of human rights: political freedom, right to life, judiciary and administration of justice, status or effectiveness of National Human Rights Institutions, press freedom, violence against women, violations of the rights of the child, violations of the rights of the minorities and indigenous/tribal peoples and repression on human rights defenders.

Bangladesh: The land of Kangaroo justice
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With 46 points, Bangladesh was ranked No. 2 human rights violator in the region. On political freedom, Bangladesh scores the worst in the region with an effective ban on politics. In the first 10 months of 2007, a total of 440,684 people had been arrested and of these, only 239,480 were issued arrest warrants. Only 778 were wanted by the police for criminal offences.

The Rapid Action Battalion and other security forces carried out 184 in so-called “cross-fire” killings – a euphemism for extrajudicial killings. The use of torture in Bangladesh is routine. Impunity for human rights
violations is total.

Bangladesh is the only country where any law i.e. Emergency Powers Rules of 2007 have been applied retroactively – a non-derogable principle in the administration of justice under international human rights law.

On press freedom, the government arrested numerous journalists in cases that raised serious concerns over the application of the law.

Indigenous/tribal peoples and minorities continued to be the target of attacks by the majority and the State. The government has intensified illegal settlement of plain settlers into the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The extent of the discrimination is hard to believe. A new study by Dhaka University showed that some 1.2 million or 44 per cent of the 2.7 million Hindu households in Bangladesh were affected by the Enemy Property Act, 1965 and the Vested Property Act, 1974. Effectively the law is empowered to describe 2.7 million innocent citizens as ‘enemies of the State’ and if they so wish seize their properties.

Human rights activists were subject to surveillance. Those defenders from or working with indigenous and minority communities were the subject of particular harassment.  The government has failed to punish the guilty responsible for the custodial killing of indigenous Garo leader, Choles Ritchil in March 2007.

Download the full reportSouth Asia Human Rights Index 2008

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