Friday, September 7, 2007

European Parliament Resolution on Bangladesh

European Parliament Resolution on Bangladesh
In a resolution on Bangladesh, MEPs urge the Caretaker Government to act in accordance with the rule of law and to speed up the restoration of democracy.
September 6, 2007
Source: European Parliament Press Release

Following the declaration of a state of emergency in Bangladesh on 11 January 2007 and the postponement of parliamentary elections scheduled for 22 January, after poll-related violence, the Caretaker Government, with the objective of ending corruption, introduced measures including a ban on all political activity and the detention or charging of over 160 political leaders - including three former prime ministers - and 100,000 civilians, says the EP resolution.

The EU Election Observation Mission suspended its operations on 22 January and the United Nations decided to withdraw their support for the electoral process on the same day. Bangladesh's longstanding tradition of secular democracy, including respect for human rights and especially women's rights, freedom of speech and religious tolerance, is increasingly under threat, believe MEPs.

Condemnation of police violence, concern at arrests of political leaders
The resolution therefore voices deep concern at the authorities' actions, including "the disproportionate response of the military and the police against the student protests which erupted in late August 2007 at Dhaka university".

Parliament is concerned about the arrest and justification for ongoing detention of Awami League president Sheikh Hasina and Bangladesh Nationalist Party president Khaleda Zia and about the case of Sigma Huda, who has been sentenced on bribery charges.

The EP urges the authorities to conduct the trials transparently and according to the rule of law and to allow access by international observers to all tribunals.

Bangladesh government pressed to speed up new elections
Overall, MEPs regret that "the Caretaker Government, while making progress on tackling corruption, has been far less assertive on political reform". The resolution thus "calls for a return to democracy and the lifting of the state of emergency in Bangladesh" and in particular "for the lifting of the ban on all political activity, in order to enable all parties and political organisations to prepare for open and fair elections, as provided for under the constitution". The government is asked "to reconsider its present roadmap for elections and to speed up its preparations" and also to "make progress with the creation of a National Human Rights Commission".

EU action
Parliament welcomes the EU's commitment to grant technical support to the Bangladeshi authorities for the organisation of the elections and calls for the EU election observation mission to resume its long-term activities as soon as possible. The Council and the Commission are asked to monitor carefully the human rights and political situation in Bangladesh in the light of recent events and to make representations over the continuing use of the state of emergency.

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