Thursday, November 15, 2007

European Commission on Human Rights in Bangladesh

European Commission to seek govt’s clarification on HR issues
Raheed Ejaz
Source: New Age
November 15, 2007

The European Commission may ask the government to make its position clear on a number of human rights issues that are a matter of concern for the West.The commission is set to raise the issues of their concern at a joint commission meeting scheduled in Dhaka on November 20-21, diplomatic sources told New Age on Wednesday.

The European diplomats have question marks over some cases of rights abuse, including custodial deaths and maltreatment of under-trial prisoners. ‘Such issues will be discussed,’ an envoy said. However, a foreign ministry official pointed out that the European Commission would ‘understandably’ not be much vocal about the governance issues like it did in earlier years; instead human rights issues might come up prominently in this year’s meeting.

Issues in two other segments — social development and trade and economic development — apart from human rights and good governance are included in the agenda of the two-day sub-group level meeting of the European Commission-Bangladesh joint commission. ‘They are more or less satisfied with the state of governance, especially the improvement made since the present caretaker government took office,’ the foreign ministry official said, referring to measures such as strengthening of Anti-Corruption Commission, separation of the judiciary from the executive and crackdown on corruption.

The EC officials might inquire about ‘detailed picture’ of the cases of human rights violation. ‘We are not convinced about the way detainees are being treated in custody, especially the death of Cholesh Richil [a Santal community leader],’ said a diplomat of a European country.

In a resolution on September 6, 2007, members of the European Parliament voiced concerns over the interim government’s actions including ‘the disproportionate response of the military and the police’ against the student protests and also questioned the arrest and justification for detention of two former prime ministers — Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina.

Helen Campbell, a senior official of the Asia directorate of the EC headquarters in Brussels, is expected to lead the EC team in the talks. The home side will be led by three joint secretary-level officials of law ministry, commerce ministry and Planning Commission.

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