Bangladesh at the 34th Session of UN Human Rights Council

As a voting member of the Human Rights Council, Bangladesh had co-sponsored a total of 9 resolutions and voted in favor of 12 out of 15 resolutions. The resolutions they co-sponsored were mostly related to human rights and development and resolutions on Palestine (A/HRC/RES/34/28, A/HRC/RES/34/29, A/HRC/RES/34/30, and A/HRC/RES/34/31). Bangladesh voted in favor of all resolutions that were put up for votes except the one on the human rights situation in Iran. It also abstained from voting two resolutions on Georgia and Syria.

As in earlier sessions, Bangladesh actively participated in panel discussions as well as interactive dialogues on thematic issues and country specific situations. It made a total of 17 individual statements throughout the session. Most of its statements, were on the thematic issues with only a few country specific issues.

Bangladesh’s statements mainly focused on the rights of the child, rights of persons with disabilities, and other rights that fall in the realm of development such as rights to food and adequate housing. However, it also spoke on the issue of right to freedom of religion concerning the global trend of an increase in religious intolerance and incitement of violence, discrimination, and xenophobia. It also reiterated the statement made by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Mr. Ahmed Shaheed that the root cause of these problems is the politicisation of human rights, including the right to freedom of religion or belief. In terms of country specific situation, it made comments on the situations of human rights in Burma/Myanmar, Palestine (mention of Israel), and Sri Lanka.

Similar to the previous session of the Council, very little attention was paid to the situation of human rights in Bangladesh. It was mentioned only a few times by a Human Rights Council Panelist, state, and NGOs. Only one panellist on the panel discussion on climate change and the rights of the child, Kirsten Sandberg, mentioned about the issue of early marriage of young girls and unequal access to land and freshwater of some of the population in the country. While the United Kingdom was the only state that made a statement concerning the country’s restriction on religious and media freedoms.

A few non-governmental organisations also mentioned the human rights situation in the country. FORUM-ASIA was one amongst the few that expressed a concern on targeted attacks and killings of those exercised their right to freedom of expression such as bloggers, journalists and writers. Restrictions on minorities in the country were also identified. Other grave violations of human rights identified as issues that persist were enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, and deaths in prisons. Mr. John Samuel, the Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA, in his statement, also emphasised the fact that the newly enacted Foreign Donations Regulation Bill in 2016 actually added to the legislation that already restricted the functions and work of human rights defenders. Asian Legal Resource Centre was another NGO that raised the same concern with FORUM-ASIA about the issues on freedom and security of human rights defenders.