Dhaka, Bangladesh
Govt response to 'dissent' worrying

HR situation

Govt response to 'dissent' worrying

US Congressman remarks

US Congressman James McGovern expressed concerns over the Bangladesh government's response to 'protests and dissent'. "Opposition rallies have been restricted or broken up by state security forces, leading to mass arrests as well as deaths, while human rights defenders that document abuses have been threatened or detained. There have been reports of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances." The US congressman made the remarks at a panel discussion by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the US Congress over Bangladesh's human-rights situation, report agencies. Rafida Bonya Ahmed, the widow of Bangladeshi-American blogger Avijit Roy, has urged the international community to come forward to help save the voices of Bangladeshi journalists, writers, bloggers, and publishers and help them maintain a healthy secular society. Apart from Bonya, a writer and activist, Sahar Chaudhry, Senior Policy Analyst, US Commission for International Religious Freedom, Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Director, Free Expression Programs, PEN American Center, Bharath Gopalaswamy, Director, South Asia Center, Atlantic Council took part in the briefing. Congressman James P McGovern, Co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission delivered the opening remark at the briefing moderated by Michael De Dora, Director, Office of Public Policy, Center for Inquiry. A representative of the government reportedly attended the briefing and upheld government's position clearing 'inconsistency' in some of the remarks made by the speakers. Congressman McGovern said in the power struggle between the major political parties-the Awami League and the Bangladesh National Party-civil society often gets caught in the crossfire. He said additional concerns have been raised by the government's response to protests and dissent. "There have been reports of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. With the news that transnational terror networks-including Al Qaeda and ISIS-are present in Bangladesh, the challenges to stability and democracy are likely to intensify," said the Congressman. He mentioned that as a member of the international community and State Party to human rights treaties, Bangladesh has an obligation to protect everyone's rights not only when convenient, but under all circumstances. He listened to panelists' recommendations as to how the US, and specifically Congress, can best engage the Bangladeshi government to secure human rights for all its people. Michael De Dora said if the human rights situation in Bangladesh worsens - if terror groups such as Ansarullah Bangla Team and al Qaeda and ISIS are allowed to roam more freely in, and take more control over the country - the global community will soon have a much bigger problem on hands than a series of gruesome attacks in Bangladesh. Sadly, however, over the past two years the human rights situation in Bangladesh has worsened, Dora said. "Most prominently, this deterioration has been marked by the five gruesome murders of secular writers and publishers this year alone." And still, these attacks are but one element of Bangladesh's broader deteriorating human rights situation, which has undermined civil and political rights, Dora said.

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