Citizen Movement submitted Memorandum to British Prime Minster

London, 27 January: Citizen Movement, a UK based civil society organisation of Bangladeshi expatriate living in the UK submitted a  memorandum to the British Prime Minster David Cameron urging to intervene in the recent appalling state atrocities and denial of democratic rights of the Citizens of Bangladesh. The details memorandum said, 

Prime Minister,

The Citizens Movement representing the Bangladeshi community in the UK presents this memorandum to you for your urgent intervention in the recent appalling state atrocities and denial of democratic rights of the Citizens of Bangladesh.

The UK has a historic relationship with Bangladesh given its Commonwealth ties. The UK is regarded as standard bearer for democracy and human rights and thereof developing nations, look to the UK for approval and guidance.

The political and social situation in Bangladesh has been deteriorating for some time; however, the past 3 weeks have seen a significant increase in the speed of that deterioration.

There are four issues to be considered:

Violence against Opposition Members/Supporters

The position adopted by the ruling Awami League is suggestive of the fact that not only is violence against opposition members/supporters to be tolerated, it is to be actively encouraged.

Barely a day passes without an activist being killed or seriously injured.

A particular mention must be made of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).  The RAB has been singled out for significant criticism from a number of international parties including Human Rights Watch.  It is also notable that a dossier of evidence filed with the International Criminal Court (ICC) includes a substantial submission regarding the actions of the RAB.

As recent as 25 January 2015, when asked to account for allegations of extrajudicial killing, RAB chief, General Benazir Ahmed remarked, “What is extrajudicial killing? Should the law enforcers remain a mute spectator while criminals commit crime? Why have the arms been issued to the law enforcers? Is it to play Haduddu?”  Such comments clearly suggest that the actions of the RAB and other groups loyal to the ruling Awami League are supported and encouraged, thus cultivating an air of impunity.

Aside from increasing levels of violence, over 7000 opposition party members and activists have been arrested over the past 3 weeks. The increasing levels of violence must be addressed and must stop if there is to be any hope of peace being restored.

Shoot on Sight Policy

Cabinet members of the government have openly admitted that they are considering a ‘shoot on sight’ policy against members of the opposition they deem to be arsonists, thus deliberately attempting to circumvent the rule of law and due process.

Early Elections Required

This recent stand off and protest is as a result of it being the first anniversary of the much disputed January 2014 election in which the Awami league was returned to office, but only because opposition parties refused to take part in what was considered to be a flawed and potentially rigged process.

The result was that Awami League members entirely unopposed won over 100 seats in the parliament.

A new general election is being demanded given the lack of credibility of the incumbent government and yet Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League are refusing to engage in the process or engage in any form of dialogue.

It must be recognised that the issue of election is key and it is likely that all current protests would end if an election under the supervision of a neutral caretaker government were scheduled.

ICT

The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) is a polarizing institution.

It is not suggested that such trials should not take place, but in its present form, the ICT is a deeply flawed process that lacks any form of credibility and is rife with corruption and collusion between the judiciary and executive.

The affect the ICT has had on the political and social situation in Bangladesh cannot be underestimated.

At present it is seen as, and is being wielded as a tool of the government to undermine and potentially destroy any form of political opposition thus cementing the Awami League grasp on power and take further steps to what is fast becoming an autocracy.

Conclusions

The current crisis facing Bangladesh is one that is of real importance to the UK Government for a number of reasons.

  1. The UK is a central standard bearer for democracy and the upholding of human rights and therefore the international community, and in particular developing nations, look to the UK for approval and guidance.
  2. Bangladesh is a strategic trade partner of the UK, especially in terms of the garment industry. The deteriorating situation in Bangladesh can therefore have a demonstrable effect on the UK economy if left unchecked.
  3. As a leader of the international community, it is respectfully suggested that the UK has a duty to address such issues on the global stage.
  4. The UK has a historic relationship with Bangladesh given its Commonwealth ties.

The significant Bangladeshi community in the UK must not be discounted in that the policies domestically could have an effect within those communities.

Our Demands

In considering the above, it is clear that there are a number of issues that need to be addressed and a number of steps to take.

It is respectfully suggested that consideration be given to the following:

  1. The suggestion of a process of dialogue between the ruling Awami League and opposition party’s, to be internationally mediated;
  2. A call for the immediate end to violence being perpetrated by all parties in Bangladesh, including that of the ruling Awami League;
  3. A call to a internationally sponsored and transparent investigation into the numerous allegations of human rights abuses that have been raised in recent years, particularly those instances of apparent extra-judicial killing and enforced disappearance; and
  4. Calling upon the ruling Awami League to schedule a free and fair general election at the earliest opportunity under the supervision of an independent domestic caretaker government, and the supervision of international election monitors.


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