Ansar Ahmed Ullah
Contributing Editor, Shottobani
London: The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) published its annual report titled “Human Rights & Democracy: The 2017 Foreign & Commonwealth Office Report” through an official launching ceremony at FCO on 24 July 2018. UK FCO Minister for Human Rights Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon made the welcome speech in the ceremony. The focus of the report was to highlight the activities of the UK Government, in general, and the FCO, in particular, to protect and defend human rights and to promote democracy worldwide. The report covered the period from January to December 2017. Bangladesh’s role regarding the Rohingya crisis was highly appreciated in the report and the issue was placed at its cover page. Also, Bangladesh, being the top-ranked country for gender equality in South Asia, was acclaimed in the report.
As per the report, Bangladesh is labelled by the FCO as one of the Human Rights Priority Countries (HRPCs). The report mentions that there are 30 HRPCs which include Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Burma, Burundi, Central African Republic, China, Colombia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Libya, Maldives, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
The report claims that HRPCs are under careful consideration of the UK against three separate criteria: the human rights situation in the country; the country’s human rights trajectory; and the UK’s ability to influence change.
The salient points of the report regarding Bangladesh can be summarised as follows, the UK Government praised the Bangladesh government and its people for giving shelter to 688,000 Rohingyas, appreciated the successful visit of Pope Francis to Bangladesh in December last year as a manifestation of Bangladesh’s religious diversity, no repetition of attacks against religious minorities, atheist bloggers or LGBT rights activists, Bangladesh has continued the progress by becoming the top-ranked country for gender equality in South Asia in the 2017 Global Gender Gap Index.
In contrast the report also claimed that Bangladesh has made no improvement in the overall human rights situation during 2017. Also, it alleged to have credible reports of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and torture by government agencies with pressure on opposition parties, civil society and the media. Referring to media and information of civil societies, the FCO report indicated an increase in the number of enforced disappearances. The report cited the claims of Human Rights Watch which reported 80 cases of secret detentions and enforced disappearances in 2017 with about 17 people still missing.