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Human rights should be respected in every situation during Bangladesh emergency

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FORUM-ASIA urges the Bangladesh government to respect all human rights during the current state of emergency in the country. There are significant concerns over the suspension of fundamental rights of citizens during this time. Rights such as freedom of speech including freedom of the press, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of occupation and rights to property have been suspended. We remind the Bangladesh government that fundamental human rights are non-derogable and that the dignity of its country’s citizens have to be preserved.  
FORUM-ASIA is closely monitoring the human rights situation in Bangladesh, especially after the announcement of the state of emergency by Dr Iajuddin Ahmed, the president of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh on 11 January 2007. There are significant concerns over the suspension of certain fundamental rights of citizens during the emergency. FORUM-ASIA expects that human rights should be respected in every situation, which has been promised by Bangladesh in international human rights treaties.  

Although the Constitution of Bangladesh has not been suspended, fundamental rights – such as freedom of speech including freedom of the press, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of occupation and rights to property – have been suspended. This means no citizen can resort to enforcement of these rights through the High Court.
The president has proclaimed the state of emergency using his authority under Article 141 of the Constitution. Under the Article of the Constitution, the president is empowered to declare emergency if he is satisfied that a grave emergency exists in which the security or economic life of Bangladesh, or any part thereof, is threatened by (a) war or (b) external aggression or (c) internal disturbance. It appears the president has declared a state of emergency because of internal disturbance that is likely to threaten the security or economic security of Bangladesh.

FORUM-ASIA has found that since the promulgation of the emergency, there have been several incidents threatening the fundamental rights of citizens. Particularly, the authorities have to ensure that civil and political rights are well protected. It is important to note that on 6 September 2000, Bangladesh acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), 1966. In this Covenant, Article 4 clearly states that:

  1. In time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation and the existence of which is officially proclaimed, the States Parties to the present Covenant may take measures derogating from their obligations under the present Covenant to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with their other obligations under international law and do not involve discrimination solely on the ground of race, colour, sex, language, religion or social origin.
  2. No derogation from articles 6, 7, 8 (paragraphs I and II), 11, 15, 16 and 18 may be made under this provision.
  3. Any State Party to the present Covenant availing itself of the right of derogation shall immediately inform the other State Parties to the present Covenant, through the intermediary of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, of the provisions from which it has derogated and of the reasons by which it was actuated. A further communication shall be made, through the same intermediary, on the date on which it terminates such derogation.

FORUM-ASIA urges the Bangladeshi authorities to consider such non-derogable provisions and to be more careful in their activities. FORUM-ASIA urges the Bangladesh government to release all political prisoners arrested under the emergency laws, and preserve the dignity and rights of the citizens of Bangladesh.   
In solidarity,

Anselmo Lee
Executive Director