Amnesty International pushes for reform in Bangladesh

Amnesty International’s Secretary General told a meeting of NGOs in Bangladesh that the organisation is in the country to push for reform that will have a lasting impact for human rights.

Speaking in Dhaka on Saturday about the organization’s next global campaign on human dignity, Irene Khan said “as Amnesty International’s Secretary General and a Bangladeshi, I feel there is a window of opportunity that can turn the trend from which this country has suffered. In this country, there has been a culture of impunity.”

Ms. Khan went on to explain that the term impunity means that there is no accountability for human rights violations committed by the state.

“This culture of impunity goes back to 1971; we feel it is an institutional problem. There needs to be a strong independent judiciary, police reform, action to address torture and ill-treatment.”

She said that the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and the military need to be held accountable for human rights violations, that there needs to be an effective National Human Rights Commission and freedom of information legislation so that people know what is happening and can take informed decisions.

“We believe there should be freedom of the media and protection for human rights defenders and social activists. These are some of the areas we will be discussing.”

Ms. Khan told the gathering that Amnesty International has a long history of work on Bangladesh.

“We have done work on human rights defenders, journalists, press freedom, torture and ill-treatment by police, RAB and others. These are issues for which Amnesty International is well known.”

Explaining Amnesty International’s forthcoming campaign on human dignity, Ms. Khan said that the issue of equality and dignity for all has become a fundamental part of AI’s work.

“As we developed our work on women’s rights, we became involved in other human rights. Human rights mean all rights: civil and political and economic, social and cultural.

“We are also working on evictions, maternal mortality, people being forced of their land because of big business projects, for example in Nandigram, India. Meanwhile, we continue to work on traditional areas. Right now, Amnesty International has a delegation in Pakistan looking into issues of rule of law and independence of judges and lawyers.”

Ms. Khan is due to meet representatives of the country’s political and legal authorities on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

Read the full speech: Irene Khan addresses NGO gathering in Dhaka