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BANGLADESH: Odhikar slams newly minted human rights commission chief for being ‘ineffective’

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odhikar_logo.jpgDhaka-based human rights organisation and FORUM-ASIA member Odhikar has questioned the effectiveness of the National Human Rights Commission in its monitoring report related to the country's state of emergency.

The report revealed the paradox of a much needed human rights commission (NHRC) established by a military-backed and unelected government which has suspended the basic rights of Bangladesh's citizen for the past 20 months.

The National Human Rights Ordinance 2007 "provides for the establishment of an 'independent' body to safeguard the people's rights but leaves the power to select the Commission Chairperson and members to a committee dominated by government officials".

The committee comprises of an Appellate division judge, Attorney General, Comptroller and Auditor General, the Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Cabinet Secretary and Law Secretary.

Odhikar points out that the provision of the NHRC to resolve cases of violations only after arbitration or mediation is not sufficient as any violation should be dealt as per the law and perpetrators exemplarily punished.

"Odhikar finds that the government has made the move to establish a Human Rights Commission only to shore up their credibility before the international community", the report alleged.

The report is also critical of the government's plan to go on with the establishment of a national monitoring centre to monitor and coordinate the tapping of telephone calls and other communications.

Odhikar expressed concern that such step would breach right to privacy and freedom of correspondence enshrined in national and international laws. It further doubted that the act of telephone tapping could enhance public security and safety.

Odhikar also questioned the draft of the Right to Information Ordinance which requires journalists to fill a form asking for information while answers may only be provided according to the approval of the concerned authority to which the request was made.

This would "curb rather than extend press freedom and the people's right to know", the report noted.

The report reiterated demands of the organisation's earlier call to end extrajudicial killing and action against Rapid Action Battalion and police who are responsible for extrajudicial killings.

Meanwhile, the formation of Truth and Accountability Commission aiming to allow people to admit to their corruption and obtain mercy by depositing ill-gotten wealth is termed as illegal in the report.

The report questioned the legitimacy of the government in power for 20 months, as it has failed to hold elections which is required by the Constitution.