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Define ‘people’ first to ensure political, economic, cultural rights: experts

Diplomatic Correspondent | Published: 00:00, Feb 11,2019

 
 

Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen addresses a programme titled Bangladesh and Human Rights organised by the ministry in Dhaka on Sunday. — New Age photo

Local and foreign rights experts on Sunday stressed the need for setting a standard for the human rights at the national level to ensure political, economic, social and cultural rights and maintain equality, justice and dignity of people of all strata.
Bangladesh’s constitution described what would be the rights of the people, but ‘there is an urgent need for defining the word “people” and whose rights we are talking about — people as a whole or only a few people who control the state,’ former National Human Rights Commission chairman Md Mizanur Rahman asked, when delivering a speech at a seminar on Bangladesh and human rights.
Foreign ministry organised the seminar in collaboration with the United Nations at a city hotel.
Mizanur, a professor of law at the University of Dhaka, also stressed the need for setting a standard for the human rights at the national level and said, ‘There is a bifurcation involving the human rights in the constitutions. What was true in 1972 [constitution], may not be true in 2019.’
People’s right to active and effective participation in political, economic, social and cultural life by maintaining equality, justice and dignity is a must as the right to identity is a challenge in the country, he added.
Pramila Patten, special representative of UN secretary general on sexual violence in conflict, hoped that the International Criminal Court would take steps to run an investigation into the Rohingya crisis as there appeared a division among the permanent members of the UN Security Council.
Ain o Shalish Kendro executive director Sheepa Hafiza said human rights are unlikely to be protected without protecting the civil and political rights and addressing shrinking space of the civil society.
There is an allegation of state of fear, she said, adding that the state has the responsibility to prove that ‘this is wrong.’
If people cannot speak up and if freedom of expression is not ensured, she said, ‘The state would not know what wrong it is doing.’
Hafiza also stressed the need for ensuring accountability of the government institutions and stressed that there is a sharp rise in the rate of rape and other forms of sexual violence as well as extrajudicial killing due to impunity, slow justice system and lawlessness.
Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen urged the global leaders to come forward to resolve the ‘Rohingya crisis at its roots, not in Bangladesh.’
‘Rohingyas must go back to their homes — the earlier the better,’ he said.
Hasanul Haq Inu, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on the Ministry of Information, stressed the need for building democracy and democratic institutions.
Foreign secretary M Shahidul Haque said the government could not agree with several recommendations made during the Universal Periodic Review on Bangladesh at the UN Human Rights Council due to Bangladesh’s own value system, domestic law and social practices.
National Human Rights Commission chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque said international quarters should impose economic sanctions on Myanmar for ensuring sustainable repatriation of the protracted Rohingya crisis.
UN resident coordinator Mia Seppo called for upholding ‘fundamental public freedom,’ and said freedom of expression, free press and independence of judiciary must be realised without any impunity.
Any human rights violation must be preventative, she said.
Georgette Gagnon of UNOHCHR called for targeted actions to prevent escalation of violence in Rakhine State of Myanmar.
The fact finding missions were collecting evidence for future prosecution in international tribunal on the matter, she said.
State minister for foreign affairs Md Shahriar Alam, Rashid Al Balushi, vice chairperson of the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, legislative and parliamentary affairs secretary Mohammad Shahidul Haque, Bangladesh permanent representative to the UN offices in Geneva M Shameem Ahsan and Suchinta Foundation director Mohammad A Arafat, among others, participated in the discussion.

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