The UN Human Rights Council has adopted the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) outcomes of Bangladesh, with recommendations including taking steps to ensure freedom of press and freedom of opinion and expression, protecting journalists and human rights defenders, and probing alleged rights violations by law enforcement agencies.
Out of the total 251 recommendations, Bangladesh accepted 178 and noted the rest at the 39th session of the UNHRC in Geneva on September 20.
Bangladesh didn’t agree that there were numerous enforced disappearances or extrajudicial killings, and said any violations of law was dealt with within the existing system and there was no impunity for law enforcement agencies.
Taking part in the discussion on Bangladesh’s UPR, speakers acknowledged the country’s continued efforts towards the promotion and protection of human rights, and promotion of a people-centered development agenda with particular emphasis on women, children, persons with disabilities and other vulnerable sections of society.
They also appreciated Bangladesh’s progress and achievements in health and education sectors.
The speakers, however, said restrictions on democratic freedom, gender-based violence, discrimination against sexual minorities, and rising religious intolerance remained a matter of deep concern.
“At the Universal Periodic Review last week, Bangladesh committed to amend laws that restrict freedom of expression, including the Digital Security Act. We stand ready to support implementation of this recommendation and encourage immediate follow-up,” UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh Mia Seppo tweeted on Thursday.
The UPR is a unique mechanism of the Human Rights Council aimed at improving the human rights situation on the ground of each of the 193 UN member states. Under this mechanism, the human rights situation of all the states is reviewed every five years. Bangladesh’s next review will take place in May 2023.
Bangladesh agreed to take action to guarantee journalists and media personnel safety and security while performing duties. It also supported freedom of the press, promoting the rights of freedom of opinion and freedom of expression, and bringing to justice perpetrators of attacks on journalists.
The country also pledged to take steps to effectively investigate alleged human rights violations by law enforcement agencies and bring to justice police or other security personnel for their alleged acts of brutality and torture.
Countries like Nepal, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan appreciated Bangladesh’s efforts towards promotion and protection of human rights.
The UK said restrictions on democratic freedoms remained a matter of deep concern and it wanted to see a free, fair and inclusive election process in Bangladesh.
Speaking on the occasion, Shameem Ahsan, Bangladesh’s permanent representative to the UN office in Geneva, noted that his country was encouraged as states had appreciated its commitment to promote human rights.
About the role of civil society, he said the government acknowledged it and it had enacted the Foreign Donation (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act-2016. Under the law, civil society organisations had to register reception of foreign donations.