The rights activists and foreign diplomats in Dhaka have called on the government for an effective civil society engagement in the appointment of chairman and members of the National Human Rights Commission.
They have said that the appointment process should be transparent as it is crucial in the ‘deteriorating human rights’ situation in Bangladesh.
The diplomats met speaker Shirin Sharmin Choudhury on Tuesday and law minister Anisul Huq on Sunday to discuss the need for a clear, transparent and participatory selection process that might promote the independence of and public confidence in the commission.
United Nations resident coordinator Mia Seppo on Tuesday tweeted that international community met the speaker and the law minister calling for ‘an independent and effective National Human Rights Commission.’
She also wrote, ‘We welcome govt commitment to change the act and make NHRC A status. We are looking forward to an inclusive selection of next commissioners.’
According to the Section 7(2) of the National Human Rights Commission Act, the law ministry provides necessary secretarial assistance to the seven-member selection committee headed by the speaker that recommends people for the appointment.
In the meeting with the law minister at his office on Sunday, UN resident coordinator Mia Seppo, German ambassador Peter Fahrenholtz and Switzerland ambassador René Holenstein, among others, discussed the issue and also expressed concern over the Digital Security Act, meeting sources said.
German ambassador on his Twitter handle on Sunday, ‘Discussing with the law minister the important issues of the National Human Rights Commission and the Digital Security Act.’
A diplomat told New Age on Monday, ‘Our proposal was to increase civil society participation and transparency. For example the criteria for selection could be shared.’
There is no enough time to amend the law in terms of the composition of the selection committee, the diplomat said, adding, ‘We also discussed the changes in the act that would make the commission an A status commission like most other commissions in the region — India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.’
Another source said, ‘We proposed the minister to consult with civil society in order to identify the best candidates.’
The diplomats discussed how the discussion with the civil society could be held to find out an acceptable chairman of the commission and what needed to do to upgrade the commission from Status B to Status A, said a release the ministry issued after the meeting.
Commission officials said that current chairman Kazi Reazul Haque, who is serving the commission for his third term, would retire by June 30 as he would reach the age of 70 years.
The tenure of the rest of the members would expire by August.
Rights activist Sultana Kamal, also the Transparency International Bangladesh chairperson, told New Age on Tuesday that the selection of the commission chairman and members were very crucial and it should be transparent to find out people capable of protecting human rights.
The Ain o Salish Kendra executive director Sheepa Hafiza said that they would hold a discussion on the appointment process at CIRDAP Auditorium on May 30.
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