It is common knowledge that democracy becomes ineffectual in a society in the absence of checks and balances and effective watchdog mechanism resulting in, first of all, having dysfunctional parliament where human rights remain unprotected, rampant corruption pervade the lives of the ordinary individuals depriving them of their basic rights to life, belief, conscience, health, education, right to self-expression and above all downgrading of the standard of governance.
This is evident from people’s experience in Bangladesh that human rights situation in the country is deteriorating day by day taken over by increased intolerance, insensibility, disrespect, hatred, mistrust. Many people are now living in an atmosphere of fear and insecurity despite remarkable achievements in some developmental areas. It is apparent that the benefits of such developments have become exclusive and are enjoyed by selected segments of the population.
Based on the above discourse analysis of the current human rights situation in Bangladesh by msf is stated below:
1) Restriction on Freedom of Expression
According to Article 39 of Bangladesh Constitution; freedom of thought, conscience, speech, press, expression are guaranteed. Similarly, the right to freedom of opinion and expression is contained in articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Furthermore, Articles 4 and 5 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), articles 12 and 13 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and article 21 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) guarantees the freedom of expression and opinion.
But essentially what are we witnessing in this regard? Frequent misuse of section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology (Amendment) Act, 2013 is rampant. The Law Enforcing Agencies are harassing people, activists and others incessantly by misusing the said law, which is a serious deviation from the national and international law that clearly impacted on the freedom of speech and expression.
Several journalists faced arbitrary criminal charges, often for publishing critical reports on people linked to the power particularly the ruling party. Journalists and Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) reported increased threats from government authorities or security agencies.
2) Freedom of Assembly and Association
As per Article 37 and 38 of Bangladesh Constitution, freedom of assembly and association of every citizen to participate in any assembly and form association are guaranteed. But what happens in reality? We witness constant restrictions on assembly and association because, first of all it is depended on police permission, which in most cases are not given. In rare cases where permission is given, people are allowed to hold rallies restrictively and often disrupted by law enforcement agencies.
3) Enforced Disappearance
Enforced disappearances continued at an alarming rate through the past decades. Often supporters of opposition parties and other victims are abducted by men in plain clothes, many times they identified themselves as police officers. The authorities however, continued to deny responsibility and the victims’ families are not informed of their whereabouts. This is a heinous human rights violation, these incidences of enforced disappearance in Bangladesh are spreading panic among the citizens inflicting them with a sense of insecurity.
4) Extra Judicial Killing, Torture and Death in Police Custody
Extra Judicial killing, torture and death in police custody are persistently continuing.Torture and other ill-treatment in custody are widespread; however, complaints are rarely investigated. The 2013 Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act is poorly enforced due to a lack of political will and awareness among law enforcement agencies or resistance from them. Victims’ families are constantly bringing complaints of torture and other ill-treatment against Police and the Rapid Action Battalion. Torture is habitually carried out by these agencies to extract “confessions”, for extortion or to punish political opponents while enjoying impunity, showing total disregard for human rights standards. The society as a whole lacks the courage and the motivation to bring them to books.
5) Violence against Women and Girls
Rape, stalking, sexual harassment, intimidation, violence against domestic workers, female garment workers, women with disability, adolescent girls are still widespread. Conviction rates continued to be extremely low, mainly because investigations were not timely or effective. In most of the cases, victims are scared to raise their voices against perpetrators. Law enforcers customarily do not want to entertain the poor victims. Government, Non-government legal aid is there but not accessible to everyone. Besides, the legal system of the country is still cumbersome, lengthy and unfavorable to the poor and the disadvantaged people which discourages them to start the legal process against the perpetrators.
6) Attack on Minority
Attack on Hindu shrines, temples and homes have become common stories in Bangladesh at any pretext. The government responded by randomly arresting several hundred suspects often without the prime accused, while unabated periodic attacks against the Hindu and other minority communities continued. Thousands of indigenous people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts and in the plains are at risk of forced displacement. Minority women and girls are more frightened as they become the first victims of any kind of attack on their communities. Attack on minority is happening in every part of the country intermittently but no effective preventive measures are evident.
7) Attack on Civil Society
The Civil Society including journalists in Bangladesh are facing constant harassment such as false cases and surveillance by police. The state also does not take the expected role in protecting the affecting civil society members when attacked or threatened by non-state agents. The Foreign Donations Act of the country puts serious restrictions on the way to obtain foreign financial assistance. The Government is planning to make the Act even more restrictive which is likely to curtail the freedom of civil society organizations in developmental and rights activities.
8) Political Violence and the Law and Order Situation
Political violence is continuing, interparty and intraparty violence are occurring repeatedly, violence among the student wing is a common phenomenon. Dissent is not to be tolerated by anyone in power. Hate speech, attacking languages against activists are continuing with limited opportunity for assembly and protest. Law enforcing agencies abusing their power against activists including right bodies are not made to answer for their actions. Politics for a long time has become commercialized controlled by money and muscle power.
9) Rampant Corruption
Corruption in Bangladesh has been a continuing problem. According to all major ranking institutions, Bangladesh routinely finds itself mentioned as one of the most corrupted countries in the world. Bangladesh has been ranked 139 with a score of 25 out of 100. Last year, it was placed at 145 out of 175 countries with the same score of 25. The public sectors regulated by the Government are the most corrupted sectors of the country.
Anti-Corruption Commission is formed in 2004, but is considered to be largely ineffective in investigating and preventing corruption because of governmental control over it.