Bangladesh and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Bangladesh and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    Civilization, an advanced state of social development— has created the society where the rights of peoples become prominent: the basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled. These rights are inalienable, indivisible and interdependent, as these entitlements are inherent to all human beings. The modern world came in the same platform to formulate and codified the fundamental human rights as an inborn legacy through the adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). After obtaining independence, Bangladesh, a densely populated country, became a member of the United Nations in 1974 and since then it has been working to promote the provisions of UDHR through the various state mechanisms: judiciary, law enforcement agencies etc.

Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
     The notion of human rights first came to light through religions and traditions. Magna Carta (1215), the petition of Rights (1628), the Bill of Rights (1688), the French Revolution (1789) and the American Bill of Rights (1791) significantly contributed to the development of human rights. After World War II, the United Nations was set up in 1945 to make the world a better living place. Consequently, the UDHR was adopted on 10th December 1948 as giving enumeration of “human rights and fundamental freedoms”.
     Rights to life, liberty and property, with nearly two dozen specific rights are included in the UDHR  whereas Article 1 to 3 are considered as basic philosophy, Article 3 to 21 are dealing with civil and political rights and Article-23 to 27 dealing with economic, social and cultural rights. Article-28 speaks of social and international order and in the meantime, Article 29 to 30 provides limitations.

The constitution of Bangladesh and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
    Bangladesh has ratified all the core human rights treaties (ICCPR, ICESCR, CERD, CEDAW, CAT, and CRC) and is subjected to the UDHR. As with UDHR, the Constitution of Bangladesh has incorporated provisions regarding fundamental rights ranging from Article-27 to 47 to protect and promote the human rights of its citizens. Article-27 states, “all citizens are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law” while Article-31 refers “to enjoy the protection of the law and to be treated in accordance with law is the inalienable right of every citizen and in particular no action detrimental to the life, liberty, body, reputation or property of any a person shall be taken except in accordance with the law.” Article-32 says “the right to life, liberty and security of person.”
Agencies working on Human Rights issues:
     Internationally, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and many other agencies are working on this issue. So, governments as well as different NGOs are working on this ground. National Human Rights Commission, AIN o Salish Kendra, Odhikar, ECDO, Transparency International Bangladesh all are well-mentioned organization.

Criminal Justice System in Bangladesh:
     Law enforcement agencies and judiciary are the major organs of our criminal justice system. Maintaining peace, prosperity and security is the obligation of Law enforcement agencies and for establishing these; we have ‘the police force’. Bangladesh police force was formed under Indian Police Act-1861 during the Queen Victoria regime. The year 2004, three special units were formed to help the regular police: Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Cheetah and Cobra. Supreme Court, District courts and the lawyers are the part of the judiciary.

Roles of Criminal Justice Systems to establish Human Rights:
    “Discipline, Security, Prosperity”—the motto of police force who are prominently involved in the task of keeping peace and protecting citizen’s life. The recent measures adopted by police force promoting human rights are:
     The country’s first Victim Support Center was established in 2009 by Bangladesh police where 270 victims sought support in the very initial year. The centre is staffed by police officers and NGO representatives to provide support with medical, legal and counselling services together with short term accommodation facilities for the victims.
    The Bangladesh Police Women’s Network has been established as a national and regional milestone towards the implementation of the Women Policing Strategy. And the broader goal of police reform with a view to fostering women development at national, regional and international levels and supporting more women to play larger role in Bangladesh police.
    Approximately 20,000 Community Policing Forums are presently in operation across the country and in 2009, nine large-scale community consultations were organized to discuss local problems and find local solutions.
Judiciary has also introduced-
    Prison reform- Paralegal and Case Coordinator committees have carried out a pilot project in the five districts which releases 4,000 detainees. It has also sent around 1,300 cases to Additional Dispute Resolution Courts with full information of 700 prisoners so as to rehabilitating them.
    In order to prevent corruption, a prevention officer is appointed in each pilot project responsible for taking measures with the assistance of Anti-Corruption Commission.
   Anti-Corruption documents the information of individual agencies through Networks- schools, civil society actors and state actors applying strategic planning process.
    Legal reform- Justice Audit has conducted an evaluation of the inefficiencies and the obstacles in procedure at institution in criminal proceedings and has been sought for remedies.

Violation of Human Rights in Criminal Justice System of Bangladesh:
     Law enforcement agencies have been violating human rights day after day, more prominently from the time when operation clean heart began. Judiciary is also violating human rights in various forms such as:
    Extrajudicial killings, tortures and custodial deaths: AIN o Salish Kendra (ASK) reports (2013), there were total 208 person died through extrajudicial killings, torture and custody, among them RAB did 28, police 123, and joint force 14. During 2004-2008 alone, there has been at least 1051 extra-judicial killing perpetrated by law enforcement agencies reported by ASK.
      Violence in custody: 28 prisoners under trail and 32 convicted prisoners died from custodial violence reported by ASK (2013).
      Enforced disappearances: According to the reports of national dailies in 2013, about 53 people disappeared, among them 5 dead bodies were recovered, 3 were handed over to police, 2 were detained and the rest of them remained missing. Very recently, the NARAYANGAJ’S case on 7 murders after enforced disappearance carries a very alarming condition of human rights violation.
      Journalist harassment or torture or threat by law enforcement agency: ASK report (2013) found, 43 journalists were harassed among them two were killed by police firing.
      Violence against women: Insufficient women police and jail cell in many police station for women indicates the situation of violation against women. Moreover, the case of YASMIN and SEEMA, reported in National dailies are examples of gross violation of human security in police custody.
      Violence against child and minority: While children should be treated with soft words, the real scenario in case of Bangladesh is completely different. In 1971, there were 48 minor groups now are 27 (Odhikar, 2013) as they are driven away from home. Moreover, the incident of ‘Ramu’ can be put forward as the shocking example of the violation religious-minority rights.  

Factors responsible for breaching Human Rights by the Criminal Justice System:
  A range of factors are responsible for violating human rights. A few salient factors are-
      Corruption: National Household Survey 2012 (TIB) reports, 75.8% personnel of the law enforcement agencies are found corrupted during one year survey period. So it is easily assumed that corruption forced them to violate human rights.
      Political interest: We can see some recent examples of how the politician uses them for their interest, i.e., firing order while strike or blockade and so on. Giving punishment to the offenders being politically biased is common in the judicial system.
     Poor salary structure, ranging from 4,500tk to 40,000tk forcing police to involve in corruption and unethical work. The salary of judges and magistrate are not well structured too.
     Inadequate training of human rights and colonial structure pushing them, not to treat a person as a respectable citizen.
      Lack of accountability motivates them to violate human rights. Defects in recruitment procedure probable factors not to abide by the law properly as many of them politically appointed.
      NGOs are playing a poor role to protect and promote human rights and in some cases, they are silent.

    We are all equally entitled to our Human Rights without discrimination which are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible. Universal Human Rights are often expressed and guaranteed by law and promoted by law enforcement agencies. To save and flourish the nation, human rights need to be ensured. It’s time for the government as well as all other related agencies to come to work hand in hand on human rights, declared in UDHR and redesigned the law enforcement agencies structure. Furthermore, an effective mechanism can establish whereby victims and their families lodge complaints. Rights of individuals through a fair trial and do to so independent judicial inquiries can be formulated. A civilized world means, the ensured Human Rights.

Siddikur Rahman Rubel
Department of Social Work
Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Sylhet.

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