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Committee Against Torture examines the situation in Bangladesh

30 July 2019 - The Committee against Torture today concluded its consideration of the initial report of Bangladesh on its efforts to implement the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Introducing the report, Anisul Huq, Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs of Bangladesh, said that his country had had a long history of suppression before it had gained its independence in 1971.  The country remained committed to the promotion of human rights and the prevention of any violent, cruel or degrading punishment and acts of torture.  To fulfil its obligations under the Convention, the Government had initiated prison reform in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross and efforts had been made to better coordinate actions seeking to prevent violence against women and children, including by prohibiting all forms of corporal punishment in educational institutions.  For 41 years, Bangladesh had been facing a protracted displacement situation and hosted 1.1 million people from Myanmar.  The flow of the Rohingya continued, but despite significant challenge, the country had upheld the principle of non-refoulement.  A law to prevent acts of torture had been enacted, which incorporated a definition of torture in line with the Convention, while other pieces of legislation incorporated provisions of the Convention, notably the Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Prisons Act.  Bangladesh maintained a zero-tolerance policy for custodial deaths related to torture or other forms of ill-treatment.  The Government was diligent in curbing any violence or torture targeting minorities in order to maintain a secular and inclusive society and maintained strict policy to address any form of violence against religious minorities under any pretext.

In the ensuing discussion, the Committee Experts welcomed the constitutional prohibition of torture and the enactment of the Anti-Torture Act but expressed concern about provisions in other laws that authorized conduct that could amount to torture or ill-treatment.  The Committee had received information alleging that law enforcement and other authorities routinely committed torture and that the vast majority of allegations had not been effectively investigated.  In this context, the reportedly low number of prosecutions for acts of torture was particularly perplexing.  In general, one got the impression that the police, as well as other law enforcement agencies, were able to operate with impunity and zero accountability and that the police was an independent state within the State.  The Experts urged Bangladesh to regain control by establishing effective mechanisms of independent oversight of the police and to take measures to shield judges from political pressure and strengthen the independence of all judicial officials.  The rates of pre-trial detention were alarming: as much as 81 per cent of the prison population in Bangladesh was made up of detainees who had not been sentenced.  Raising concern about the links between torture and pre-trial detention, the Experts asked about the plans to reduce and regularize pre-trial detention and ensure that judicial orders to release individuals were actually implemented.  The Experts also discussed the growing trend of electoral violence and asked what was being done to curb the phenomenon and whether the Government would allow independent monitoring of its elections and polling stations.

In his concluding remarks, Mr. Huq said that Bangladesh continued to aspire to higher standards in the services that it provided to its people and stressed that the actions of a few individuals could not be allowed to cast a shadow on the reputation of the entities for which they worked. 

Jens Modvig, Committee Chairperson, concluded by thanking the delegation and encouraged Bangladesh to protect civil society organizations, notably those that had worked with the Committee in the context of the review.

The delegation of Bangladesh consisted of representatives of the Ministry for Law, Justice, and Parliamentary Affairs, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Ministry for Social Welfare, the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Bangladesh Police, the National Security Intelligence, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Rapid Action Battalion, the and the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will issue the concluding observations on the report of Bangladesh at the end of its sixty-seventh session on 9 August.  Those, and other documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, will be available on the session’s webpage.  The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at http://webtv.un.org/.

The Committee will next meet in public on Tuesday, 6 August, at 3 p.m. to discuss follow-up to articles 19 and 22, and reprisals.

Report

The Committee is examining the initial report of Bangladesh (CAT/C/BGD/1).

Presentation of the Report

ANISUL HUQ, Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs of Bangladesh, said that his country had had a long history of suppression before it gained independence in 1971.  It had faced a dark phase and, despite disruptions, the Government remained committed to the promotion of human rights and the prevention of any violent, cruel or degrading punishment and acts of torture.  The father of the Bangladeshi nation had always stood by the oppressed and believed that the struggle of Bangladesh was a symbol for the broader struggle for justice and peace, the Minister said and emphasized that the Prime Minister had said that police and law enforcement officers had to be people-friendly and uphold the rule of law and human rights while performing their duties.  The report before the Committee had been prepared in line with the Convention’s procedural guidelines, explained Mr. Huq and expressed his satisfaction at the presence of civil society organizations during the review.

To fulfil its obligations under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Government had initiated prison reform in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross and efforts had been made to better coordinate actions seeking to prevent violence against women and children.  A Denmark-funded programme sought to address and remedy this issue, while the Government had issued a circular prohibiting all forms of corporal punishment in educational institutions.  For 41 years, Bangladesh had been facing a protracted displacement situation, continued the Minister, noting that the country had welcomed displaced Myanmar nationals and that the flow of the Rohingya still continued.  As a host to 1.1 million people from Myanmar, Bangladesh had upheld the principle of non-refoulement despite significant challenges. 

The principles and provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had been integrated in the Bangladeshi Constitution and a specific law had been enacted to prevent acts of torture, which incorporated a definition of torture in line with the Convention.  Other pieces of legislation incorporated provisions of the Convention, notably the Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Prisons Act, which was currently being updated, said the Minister and emphasized that Bangladesh maintained a zero-tolerance policy for custodial deaths related to torture or other forms of ill-treatment.  The officer-in-charge at the police station examined persons brought in for any signs of injuries, which were then recorded, he explained and added that the code of conduct for law enforcement had to be strictly followed.  Bangladesh law enforcing agencies were very much bound by law, Mr. Huq stressed, citing various watchdog agencies and the High Court, which intervened and gave directives when necessary.  Stern disciplinary action was taken against law enforcement personnel convicted of transgression or breach of discipline.  Some had been prosecuted and sentenced to the capital punishment in relation to a conviction of abduction and murder.

Bangladesh was constitutionally committed to maintaining harmony between communities of diverse faith and religions and the Government was diligent in curbing any violence or torture targeting minorities in order to maintain a secular and inclusive society.  In particular, Bangladesh maintained strict policy to address any form of violence against religious minorities under any pretext; it had unequivocally condemned all incidents of violence against religious and ethnic minorities and taken appropriate legal action to bring perpetrators to justice, the Minister stressed.  For example, in 2016, when violence erupted against the minority community in Nasirnagar in the Brahmanbaria district, the Government had instructed the local administration to take immediate action to file cases and arrest the accused persons. 

In conclusion, Mr. Huq noted that Bangladesh faced challenges in implementing the Convention, such as the use of digital tools to strengthen criminal justice mechanisms and the need for extensive institutional and legal reforms.  Since 2009, the Government had devoted its energy to creating an appropriate environment for the full enjoyment of all human rights by its people.  It still had a long way to go, given the enormity of the challenges that it faced, but it was committed to creating a peaceful, progressive and human rights-based Bangladesh.

Questions by Committee Experts

FELICE GAER, Country Co-Rapporteur for Bangladesh, started by welcoming the receipt of the initial report of Bangladesh and the presence of such a high level delegation to discuss compliance with the Convention.  However, she regretted that despite the fact that the Committee had given the Government nine months’ notice of its intention to review the country’s compliance with the Convention in the absence of a report, Bangladesh had submitted a report to the Committee only one week ago.  Why was there such a delay in submitting the initial report?  The report stated that the Government had held consultations with relevant ministries, agencies, non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations - had it also consulted with non-governmental organizations that had submitted information to the Committee? 

The report contained no data or other information reflecting the country’s policies’ effective application, remarked the Co-Rapporteur and asked why Bangladesh had not shared data related to the prevention and punishment of torture with this Committee when it had presented such data to other United Nations mechanisms.

Despite the introduction of the Anti-Torture Act and the Constitution’s prohibition of torture, Ms. Gaer expressed concern about provisions of other laws that were still in force and authorized conduct that could amount to torture or ill-treatment.  The Constitution indicated that its prohibition against torture did not apply to any legally prescribed punishment.  Did the State party intend to amend its laws to explicitly prohibit the use of punishment that could amount to torture or ill-treatment?  Did the prohibition against torture and ill-treatment apply to people in preventive detention?

Turning to the applicability of the Anti-Torture Act, she asked for the confirmation that it applied to prisons authorities and the Anti-Corruption Commission and whether high-level officials had made it clear to the police that pressuring criminal defendants to confess to crimes in a manner that would constitute torture or ill-treatment was unacceptable.  The Co-Rapporteur also requested data on the number of cases filed under the Anti-Torture Act since its enactment and whether the text was it publicly available in the State party. 

The Committee had received information alleging that law enforcement and other authorities routinely committed torture and that the vast majority of allegations had not been effectively investigated, said Ms. Gaer and noted that the reportedly low number of prosecutions for acts of torture was particularly perplexing.  Could the delegation comment on this?

Turning to the Rapid Action Battalion, she asked for updated statistics on the number of cases of extrajudicial executions, incommunicado detentions, and torture in custody by this entity.  Had the Government taken any steps to carry out an independent inquiry into the performance of the Rapid Action Battalion and was it contemplating its reform?  What steps had been taken to address allegations of incommunicado detention of Hummam Quader Chowdhury, Mir Ahmed Bin Quasem and Brigadier General Abduallahil Amaan Al Azmi, the Co-Rapporteur asked and remarked that the situation in the country was more urgent than the report’s language suggested.  The Committee hoped that the zero tolerance policy meant taking action now, she said.

Moving on to investigations and complaints mechanisms, Ms. Gaer asked the delegation to provide data or any further information on the number of complaints of torture that had been received by high officials and whether investigations had been opened.  She also requested data on the number of requests for judicial inquiries into allegations of torture and disappearance.  What measures had been taken to shield judges from political pressure and to strengthen the independence of all judicial officials?  What actions was the State party taking or considering to address conflicts of interest in investigations into acts of torture?

Ms. Gaer pointed out that the report did not specifically address the protection of vulnerable groups, including members of ethnic and religious minority groups, from torture and ill-treatment and then requested information on efforts taken by the Government to ensure those groups had access to effective complaints mechanisms.  How was Bangladesh encouraging victims of sexual and gender-based violence to register complaints?  She asked the delegation to respond to allegations that 300 cases of violence against indigenous women and girls since 2014 had gone unpunished and provide information on efforts to ensure accountability for sexual exploitation and abuse committed by its forces when deployed as United Nations peacekeepers.

The Committed had received credible reports that Bangladeshi officials had been involved in facilitating the trafficking of Rohingya women and children, remarked the Co-Rapporteur and asked were the Rohingya were entitled to access legal aid and whether they were able to bring claims that they were victims of violations before the country’s courts.

JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson and Country Co-Rapporteur for Bangladesh, starting with legal safeguards, asked if, according to Bangladeshi law, detainees had a legal right to inform a person of their choosing of the arrest.  If so, when did this right apply, from the outset?  If the detained persons did not have the right to inform someone of the arrest, this made all detentions incommunicado detentions.  Did the Government have any means, such as statistics or reports, which may show to which degree the right to a lawyer was actually enjoyed in practice?  He also asked the delegation to provide information about how quickly after an arrest a legal aid counsel could assist the accused in practice and to explain whether there were situations in which legal safeguards were not applicable or where incommunicado detention was deemed justified. 

The lack of certain safeguards seemed to lead to frequent torture, consequently, the Government had an obligation to ensure they were in place.  Mr. Modvig asked if the High Court Division guidelines on arrests without warrants, detention, remand and treatment of suspects had been implemented and the Criminal Procedure Code been amended accordingly.  How many medical certificates of injuries had been registered? 

In general, one got the impression that the police, as well as other law enforcement agencies, were able to operate with impunity and zero accountability and that the police was an independent state within the State, remarked the Chairperson and urged the Government to take measures to regain control by establishing effective mechanisms of independent oversight of the police.  Did the Government agree that more accountability was necessary and what measures did it intend to take in that regard?

Turning to the National Human Rights Commission, he asked how the Government would ensure that the Commission would be able to benefit from the support and collaboration of Government entities, including the Home Ministry, in discharging its mandate.  Did the Government intend to see that the Commission meet the Paris Principle standards by, inter alia, reviewing the 2009 Act and ensuring appointments and budget allocations were made independently?  He asked if, and how, the Commission had access to places of detention without prior permission and whether Bangladesh would allow civil society organizations access to places of detention. 

On pre-trial detentions, according to information received by the Committee, as much as 81 per cent of the prison population made up of detainees who had not been sentenced.  How long had these detainees been imprisoned on average and what was the maximum period of such detention?  Noting that pre-trial detention was conducive to torture, the Co-Rapporteur asked about the Government’s plans to reduce and regularize pre-trial detention and ensure that judicial orders to release individuals were actually implemented and also asked for an update on the case of the acting editor of the Daily, Amar Desh, who had been kept in arbitrary detention for more than three-and-a-half years.

The delegation was asked about the training provided to law enforcement agencies on the provisions of the Convention and whether the inclusion of Istanbul Protocol in the training was being considered; the measures in place to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons from threats, killings and arbitrary detentions by public officials; comments on reports of prison overcrowding; and details on the Government’s fight against corruption in the criminal justice system

The Mandela Rules had clear standards for the medical services that should be provided in prisons, such as a routine medical examination upon admission, he said and asked how many medical doctors worked in prisons and the Government’s plans to ensure the provision of adequate medical treatment and initial medical examinations to newly admitted detainees.  How many deaths in custody had occurred since 2015 and what procedure was in place to deal with such deaths?

Moving on to reparation, Mr. Modvig asked for statistical data for the last ten years and whether the right to reparation depend on the victim filing a civil lawsuit.  In this context, would Bangladesh consider withdrawing its reservations to article 14 of the Convention against Torture on rehabilitation of victims of torture?  He asked about the measures the State party was considering to ensure coerced confessions were dismissed, whether such acts were sanctioned, and what effective sanctioning mechanism could look like.  Would Bangladesh consider a moratorium on the death penalty?

Raising concern about the growing trend of electoral violence, the Chair asked what steps were being taken to curb the phenomenon and if the Government would allow independent monitoring of its elections and polling stations.  The delegation was requested to provide data disaggregated by year on the number of investigations, charges and convictions of State officials for violence related to the electoral process.

Other Committee Experts asked about forms of compensation through civil or criminal proceedings that all victims of torture, not just detainees, could use; the situation of incarcerated women and girls, notably as pertained to healthcare, hygiene and overcrowding; the number of women prisoners and measures taken to improve their living conditions, as well as that of children detained with their mothers; data on sexual violence against children; whether Bangladesh had abolished all forms of corporal punishment in jails; and the free and informed consent of all individuals that underwent medical treatment, notably in psychiatric institutions.

Replies by the Delegation

ANISUL HUQ, Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs of Bangladesh, in his responses to Experts’ questions and comments insisted that the country’s historical background had to be taken into account and stressed that in 2009, the Government had launched major reforms in compliance with its international human rights obligations.  It had consecutively submitted seven of its pending initial reports to the concerned treaty bodies and the initial report to this Committee had been last in the series, which explained the delay in reporting.  Regarding consultations with stakeholders, a list of invited non-governmental organizations was contained in an annex to the initial report, he explained.

The Constitution of Bangladesh did not contradict the Convention as far as definition of torture was concerned; it complied with the exclusionary clause of Article 1 of the Convention, which stipulated that torture did not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.  Turning to legal safeguards, the Minister recalled that Article 33(1) of the Constitution provided that an arrested or detained person would have the right to consult and be defended by the legal practitioner of his choice from the outset of any arrest.  Bangladesh was bound to provide a lawyer to a convict who was sentenced with life imprisonment or death penalty, even if he could not afford one.  To date, the Government had provided legal aid to 108,600 persons.  There were some eligibility requirements set down by rules to receive this service.  Collection of relevant documents in that regard could require some time but that did not disrupt the legal aid provision process. 

On incommunicado detentions, the Constitution provided that no person who had been arrested would be detained in custody without being informed.  The Code of Criminal Procedure provided that when a person was arrested he would have to be notified of the reasons for arrest without delay.  Furthermore, when a court indicted an accused person, the charges would be read over and explained and the accused person would be asked whether he pleaded guilty of the offence charged or claims to be tried.  Section 4 of the Anti-Torture Act provided that after receiving a complaint related to torture, the competent court would record the complainant’s statement and order for medical examination of the victim by a registered medical practitioner.  As regarded pre-trial detention, if the alleged offence was not punishable with death or life imprisonment or imprisonment exceeding ten years, the accused person might be released on bail in case the investigation could not be completed within 120 days from the date of the allegation or the order of the Magistrate for investigation.  Furthermore, if a trial could not be concluded within the specified time, the accused might be released on bail.  

The Government had taken various initiatives to reduce prison overcrowding, such as building new prisons in 13 districts, which would increase the capacity by 16,308 beds.  The century-old Dhaka Central Prison had been moved to a larger suburban area with water and sanitation facilities as well as greater access to fresh air.  The Government would like to make prisons correction centres rather than detention centres.  Bangladesh planned to review the laws to prohibit torture including in preventive detention. 

Regarding the security forces’ and the Rapid Action Battalion’s request to be excluded from the scope of the Anti-Torture Act, the Minister stressed that as part of the government machinery, any relevant agency or body could make recommendations to the Government with regards to legal provisions.  In this particular case, there had been no such amendment to the law and no such amendment would be adopted.  The Anti-Torture Act was applicable to prison authorities as well as to the Anti-Corruption Commission.  Its application was not limited to any particular government authority or agency and it applied to any government official who committed torture in an official capacity.

Section 24 of the Evidence Act contained provisions rendering forced confessions legally inadmissible.  It provided that any confession, if obtained by inducement, threat or promise, was irrelevant in a criminal proceeding.  Responding to a Committee Expert who had asked if the delegation could “pledge zero tolerance to torture”, Mr. Huq stated “yes”. 

To resolve the backlog of cases, the Government had initiated projects to expand physical capacities of the judiciary and judicial magistrate buildings in 64 districts and had established 41 tribunals to try cases under the Cruelty to Women and Children Act.  The Government of Sheikh Hasina had gone a long way to strengthen the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, the Minister stressed and added that a separate judicial service commission had been established to recruit judicial officers into the subordinate judiciary.  The Commission had so far appointed 1,466 judges.  For the first time in the history of the Bangladeshi judiciary, judicial officers were going abroad to receive training.  

Another delegate addressed questions raised on training of law enforcement officers and said that the training manual was modern and took into consideration all recent international developments and reaffirmed that Bangladesh would actively encourage its relevant training institutes to reflect the provisions of Istanbul Protocol.  Enhancing capacity of any institution, agency or body was a continuous exercise for which Bangladesh was also seeking cooperation from its international partners.

In Bangladesh, death penalty remained a valid form of punishment for the most serious and heinous crimes.  The Government had been, however, gradually edging out of it with other forms of punishments, like life imprisonment.  Until now, it had not taken any decision to abolish, defer or put in place a moratorium on death penalty. There were multiple layers of safeguards against death penalty.  Any judgment resulting in death sentence went automatically to the High Court Division for death reference hearing.  After confirmation of High Court Division, the aggrieved party still had the right to appeal, review or revision.

In Bangladesh, as in many other countries, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex rights were a religious, cultural, moral and ethical issue.  Section 377 of the Penal Code criminalized same-sex relations as unnatural behaviour and made it a punishable offence. The delegation recalled that same-sex relations were currently illegal in 76 countries and punishable by death in five.  Bangladesh, like many Asian and African countries, inherited this law as part of their colonial legal systems. However, constitutional protection from torture was applicable to citizens irrespective of their identity, status or sexual orientation.

ANISUL HUQ, Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs of Bangladesh, said that his was a multi-religious and multi-ethnic country of over 160 million people and reaffirmed that the authorities, including the law enforcers, were committed to the safety and rights of minorities.  In this regard, there was no tolerance for any vandalism or violence, while the Prime Minister had time and again expressed her deep commitment to “make Bangladesh home for people of all faiths”.

The Children Act provided for punishment for assault, neglect, desertion, abuse, making a child work for one’s personal purpose, exposing the child in an indecent exposure, causing injury or mental sufferings, etc.  The Government had also established six safe homes, with a capacity of 50 each, for poor children, adolescent girls and women victims of criminal offences, where they were provided with housing, education, training, health care services, recreation and rehabilitation.  The National Human Rights Commission had been established under the Paris Principles and Bangladesh was investing all necessary resources to ensure its independence and effectiveness.  The Commission was empowered to receive complaints of human rights abuses - including torture – as well as to investigate allegations of torture, either following a complaint or in suo moto, and to visit prisons.  

The Government had unequivocally condemned all incidents of violence against religious and ethnic minorities and had taken appropriate legal actions to bring the perpetrators to justice.  Regarding allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeeping officials, Mr. Huq pointed out that the Prime Minister herself was a member of the Circle of Leadership convened by the United Nations Secretary-General and that Bangladesh had endorsed the voluntary compact of the United Nations Secretary-General.  The Government had also agreed to joint investigations with the United Nations of any allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by any peacekeeper.

Mr. Huq said there were 140 posts for jail doctors and explained that the district civil surgeons assigned doctors under their jurisdiction to a roster of medical doctors who provided medical services in prisons.   The Civil Surgeon permanently assigned one of his doctors to visit jails periodically and attend patients.  There was no provision or scope in the law for extra-judicial killings.  As per the provisions of the Penal Code, the use of firearms during regular operations was permitted only as the last means of protection of public life and property and to exercise the right to self-defence.  The Government continued to work towards further capacity building of the law enforcement agencies in order to reduce the number of casualties during law enforcement operations.  

Follow-up Questions by Committee Experts

FELICE GAER, Country Co-Rapporteur for Bangladesh, asked if the Government would eliminate whipping and any punishment found to amount to ill-treatment under the Convention.  Did the delegation consider that the Anti-Torture Act provided for the accountability of persons in command that failed to address torture committed by their subordinates?  She requested information on the Rapid Action Battalion’s internal inquiry body.  The Committee had received information about alleged retaliatory lawsuits against civil society organizations, she said and sought assurances that the organizations and individuals who had shared information with the Committee about human rights violations would not face threats or reprisals for doing so.

Turning to incommunicado detentions and disappearances, she asked if independent investigations were really conducted, noting that persistent allegations to the contrary were being made.  Would the Government make it clear to the entities that had asked to be excluded from the application of the Anti-Torture Act that such a request was inappropriate?  She requested more information on the use of forensic investigations techniques.  Did the Government consider that its obligations under the Convention were related to Sustainable Development Goal 16?

JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson and Country Co-Rapporteur for Bangladesh, asked for statistics on the enjoyment of the fundamental legal rights.  Was there a national register of detained persons?  Turning to the question of excessive use of force by the police, he asked about the results and outcomes of investigations and how many police officers had been disciplined.  The Chair further asked whether Bangladesh would implement the recommendations made by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights regarding the National Human Rights Commission, whether the Commission conducted preventive visits to prisons and if so, how many. 

Mr. Modvig asked about maximum length of pre-trial detention; whether the Government provided training on the Istanbul Protocol; the timeline for prison reform measures outlined by the delegation; and efforts made to tackle the widespread corruption in the judicial system, and stressed the importance of conducting routine examination upon the admission of new detainees. 

Other Committee Experts asked for information about measures for redress for victims of torture; steps taken to ensure the independence of the judiciary; the appointment of judges; the practice of kneecapping; the detention of persons with psychiatric problems; the access of people sentenced to life imprisonment to judicial review; and the protection of the Rohingya from refoulement.

Replies by the Delegation

ANISUL HUQ, Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs of Bangladesh, rejected the proposition that enforced disappearances frequently occurred in Bangladesh.  Cases of “possible abduction” of certain individuals were often reported as enforced disappearances and there had been a tendency for quite some time to label all cases of missing as enforced disappearances.  This was done with the obvious intention of maligning the Government and its achievements.  In many cases the perceived victims had reappeared, proving the allegations of so-called enforced disappearances to be false.

The Government was taking all actions to protect the Rohingya and would continue to do so.  Despite not being party to the 1951 convention on refugees, Bangladesh continued to provide shelter to displaced persons. 

Regarding the registry, any citizen could apply for information under the Right to Information Act.  Psycho-social support had not been institutionalized in general in the Bangladeshi society and the Government was trying to address this gap.  Much had been achieved, particularly in the area of mental health and autism, and the Government had committed to introduce sign language in Court.  Many steps had been taken to ensure the independence of the judiciary, such as increasing the salary of judges and reducing the interference of the Government to zero, while the legislation on the appointment on judges was being drafted.

Concluding Remarks

ANISUL HUQ, Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs of Bangladesh, in his concluding remarks, said that his Government continued to aspire to higher standards in the services that it provided to its people and stressed that the actions of a few individuals could not be allowed to cast a shadow on the reputation of the entities for which they worked.  Bangladesh had stayed on track and defied naysayers time and again; it aimed high, acted with caution and speed, and was a credible and willing partner that was working to meet its human rights obligations.

JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson, concluded by thanking the delegation and said that three of the Committee’s recommendations to be issued after the review would be labelled urgent.  The Chair urged Bangladesh to submit a plan for the implementation of recommendations and encouraged it to protect civil society organizations, notably those that had worked with the Committee in the context of the review.

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