Bangladesh reminded of obligation to hold free, fair election
British and European parliamentarians have said the Bangladesh caretaker government should live up to its political obligation by lifting the state of emergency so as to allow political activities and political reform.
As "friends of fair and democratic Bangladesh", they have reminded the government of its obligation to hold free and fair elections.
The observations were made at a seminar on "The Roadmap to Parliamentary Elections?" held yesterday in the Moses Room at the Houses of Lords.
The seminar was organised by the International Bangladesh Foundation and chaired by Lord Avebury, vice chair of All Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group and chairman of International Bangladesh Foundation.
It was attended by MPs, MEPs, peers, councillors and representatives of human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Global Human Rights Defence, Jumma People's Network, Nirmul Committee and Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council.
The speakers at the seminar said human rights violations and lifting of the emergency rule must be placed on the reform agenda as a top priority and the government must respect human rights of its citizens and ensure that no torture takes place.
Lord Avebury in his opening remarks said, "We're concentrating on the conditions that will enable free and fair elections to be held as scheduled before the end of the year."
He reminded that according to the electoral roadmap, talks with political parties were to be completed by the end of 2007, and electoral reforms to be passed by March. "These targets have slipped," he said.
Saida Muna Tasneem, counsellor at Bangladesh High Commission in London, gave a presentation on and an overview of the caretaker government's commitment to the roadmap to parliamentary elections by December 2008.
She informed the seminar of the progress in voter registration work and various reforms the government has already implemented, including separation of the judiciary and formation of independent Election Commission, Anti-Corruption Commission and National Human Rights Commission.
Tasneem called for continued support from the international partners for successful completion of the caretaker government's roadmap and reforms.
Baroness Pola Uddin, chair of Britain-Bangladesh All Party Parliamentary Group; Anne Main MP, chair of Conservative Friends of Bangladesh; Jeremy Corbyn MP of Britain-Bangladesh All-Party Parliamentary Group; Robert Evans MEP, chair of European Parliament's South Asia Delegation; Dr Charles Tannock MEP, vice president of subcommittee of European Parliament's Human Rights; Tim Parritt, deputy programme director for Asia of Amnesty International; Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch; and Sultan Shariff of the Awami League also spoke at the seminar.
Joshna Miah of BNP, MA Rauf of Gano Forum, and Dr Ahmed Ziauddin, Bangladesh Centre for Genocide Studies, Belgium, and Sally Kebble MP also attended the seminar.
In the general discussion that followed, speakers expressed their "deep concern over the human rights abuses" under the state of emergency in the country. Some speakers raised the issue of the trial of war criminals.
The speakers, however, appreciated the various steps taken by the present government against corruption, terrorism and welcomed Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed's recent comments against the war criminals but stated that it is the duty of the government to initiate cases and take initiatives against the alleged war criminals.
Lord Avebury in his concluding remarks said, "There has to be freedom of expression and of assembly if elections are to be free and fair."
He added: "Elections aren't only about having the right laws, an accurate register and impartial officials. They depend on the preconditions in the months before polling day, and crucially, on the maintenance of a peaceful environment during election campaign."