RIGHTS violation prominently featured in the year that just went by, much to the concern of rights activists, in particular, and dismay of ordinary citizens, in general. Enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killing, ‘secret detention’, the shrinking of democratic space for freedom of expression, rights abuse by law enforcers in the form of excessive use of force, and torture of and repression against women, children and national and religious minorities have marked 2017 so much so that the National Human Rights Commission in the report it submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in the universal periodic review 2017 recommended that the government should ‘investigate and prosecute all cases of extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearances and excessive use of force in a transparent manner.’ This is because the government should, as the report further recommended, ‘ensure a conducive environment to build a culture of human rights and create more opportunities and platforms for human rights activists, human rights defenders, NGOs, CSOs, and journalists allowing constructive engagement to promote and propagate human rights.’ Politicians, students and businesspeople are reported to have been, as New Age reported on Tuesday, the worst victims of enforced disappearances. At least 150 people went missing in the past two consecutive tenures of the Awami League government, which assumed office in 2009 after pledging that the ‘rule of law will be established… Human rights will be strictly enforced.’
Civil and political rights of the people, as rights group Odhikar said, continued to be violated throughout 2017, with the democratic space being shrunken, the right to freed of expression and association and, even, the right to life being left in the lurch, running counter to what the country’s constitution pledges for the citizens. At least 407 people were subjected to enforced disappearances between January 2009, when the Awami League government assumed office, and November 2017. The law minister, in December 2017, sought to disagree with the allegations of rights abuse against the law enforcers, passing the blame on to a few, who might be there in any forces although he appeared worried about enforced disappearances. Such remarks by a minister could only encourage further rights violation. In rights issues, one incident is too many and the minister should, therefore, put safeguards against any rights violation, major or minor. There have still been no efforts on part of the government to enact a law criminalising enforced or involuntary disappearances and there could be an independent tribal to deal with enforced disappearance cases with powers to investigate any individual, or organisation suspected to be behind such crimes and take action against anyone engaged in such dangerous practice.
The government, as manager of the state, must ensure that citizens enjoy all the rights that the constitution confers on them. The government must also investigate all past and current allegations of rights abuse, early, thoroughly and impartially, so that the menace could be stopped. It needs to break the culture of impunity that the offenders seem they enjoy to set the issues right and people should make a big noise to mount pressure on the government to do all this.
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