Bangladesh at the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council: Engagement in the work of the Council fails to achieve concrete results in the country

By Émile Kinley-Gauthier, FORUM-ASIA

Bangladesh is a member of the Council, it did not vote against any of the resolutions tabled during the session. Bangladesh, however, abstained on country-specific resolutions under Item 4. In contrast it joined the consensus on all country-specific resolution under Item 10 (technical cooperation and capacity-building). All of them were adopted without a vote. Bangladesh continued to display a clear reluctance on country specific action in line with fellow members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Non-Aligned Movement and like-minded groups in the UN that oppose this. Bangladesh did not sponsor any resolutions during this session, and co-sponsored only one on unaccompanied migrant children (A/HRC/RES/33/7).

Bangladesh did not raise any concerns with regard to the resolution on the safety of journalists (A/HRC/RES/33/2) that was adopted without a vote. While this silence may seem positive, the domestic situation in the country paints a grimmer picture. The recent murders of the first and only LGBTI magazine editor Xulhaz Mannan and the online activist Nazimuddin Samad coupled with the lack of credible investigations in these killings is testimony to the abject failure of the authorities to uphold freedom of expression and protect human rights defenders. Several states and NGOs called on Bangladesh to stop restricting the right to freedom of expression and freedom of press and to strengthen the protection of civil society.

Bangladesh was active during the 33rd session and participated in many general debates and interactive dialogues. Civil society organisations did not refrain from criticising the government throughout the session for its lack of serious commitment to the protection of human rights, but overall little attention was paid to the situation in Bangladesh, as mentioned by R. Iniyan Ilango of FORUM-ASIA at side event organised by the Conference of NGOs to wrap-up and review the 33rd session. The only exception to this trend was the report of the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, which mentioned Bangladesh a number of times.