OHCHR / BACHELET BANGLADESH PRESSER

17-Aug-2022 00:04:13
Briefing journalists today in Dhaka at the end of her first official mission to Bangladesh, UN Human Rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet acknowledged that the country has made remarkable economic and social progress and is aiming to graduate from Least Developed Country status in a few years. OHCHR
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STORY: OHCHR / BACHELET BANGLADESH PRESSER
TRT: 04:13
SOURCE: OHCHR
RESTRICTIONS: NONE
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH/NATS

DATELINE: 17 AUGUST 2022, DHAKA, BANGLADESH
SHOTLIST
1. Med shot, journalists, Bachelet at podium, Intercontinental hotel
2. SOUNDBITE (English) Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
“Bangladesh has been a leader in international fora on key human rights issues such as migration and climate change. It has also stepped up to provide refuge to more than 1 million Rohingya refugees who were forced to flee persecution and serious international crimes being committed against them across the border in Myanmar. Bangladesh also continues to face challenges on the human rights front, and I have been able to discuss many of these extensively with the Government and civil society members.”
3. Wide shot, journalists attending the briefing
4. SOUNDBITE (English) Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
“In such circumstances, what is key is that people from various sectors of society are heard and that they feel heard. Civil society members are important resources that governments need to tap into. Critical voices can help to identify the problems, to acknowledge them, to dive deep into the causes and discuss solutions. Acknowledging the challenges is always the first step to overcoming them.”
5. Wide shot, journalists attending the briefing
6. SOUNDBITE (English) Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
“My exchanges with civil society representatives were rich and insightful – this was not surprising as Bangladesh has historically had a wealth of civil society expertise in various fields. But successive UN human rights reports have documented a narrowing civic space, increased surveillance, intimidation and reprisals often leading to self-censorship. Laws and policies over-regulating NGOs and broadly restricting the freedom of expression make it difficult – and sometimes risky – for them to function effectively.”
7. Wide shot, journalists attending the briefing
8. SOUNDBITE (English) Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
“There needs to be space for more dialogue among political parties and with a wide range of civil society actors to prevent grievances from building and erupting in social unrest. The voices of women, religious minorities and indigenous peoples, and especially young people need to be heard.”
9. Wide shot, journalists attending the briefing
10. SOUNDBITE (English) Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
“I stressed the importance of protecting minority groups, such as Hindus and indigenous peoples from violence or land encroachments. The peace accord in the Chittagong Hill Tracts 25 years ago was an important achievement. But given the continued allegations of human rights violations, linked with land disputes and the need for demilitarization, I called for full implementation of the peace accord and unrestricted access for independent actors to visit the area.”
11. Wide shot, journalists attending the briefing
12. SOUNDBITE (English) Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
“Various UN human rights mechanisms – including the UN Committee Against Torture, have been raising concerns for several years about allegations of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killing, torture – many of which have been attributed to the Rapid Action Battalion – and the lack of accountability for such violations. I raised my deep concern about these serious allegations with Government ministers and highlighted the need for an impartial, independent, and transparent investigation into these allegations, accompanied by security sector reform.”
13. Wide shot, journalists attending the briefing
14. SOUNDBITE (English) Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
“There are continued, alarming allegations of both short-term and long-term enforced disappearances, and concerns about the lack of due process and judicial safeguards. Particularly given the long-standing frustrations at the lack of progress in investigations and other obstacles to justice, I encouraged the Government to create an independent, specialised mechanism that works closely with victims, families, and civil society to investigate allegations of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.”
15. Wide shot, journalists attending the briefing
16. SOUNDBITE (English) Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
“Unfortunately, the current situation across the border means that the conditions are not right for returns. Repatriation must always be conducted in a voluntary and dignified manner, only when safe and sustainable conditions exist in Myanmar.”
17. Wide shot, journalists attending the briefing
STORYLINE
Briefing journalists today (17 Aug) in Dhaka at the end of her first official mission to Bangladesh, UN Human Rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet acknowledged that the country has made remarkable economic and social progress and is aiming to graduate from Least Developed Country (LDC) status in a few years.

Starting from a low baseline, Bangladesh has made strides in socio-economic development, poverty eradication, access to education and health, women’s and children’s mortality, access to food, water, and sanitation.

“Bangladesh has been a leader in international fora on key human rights issues such as migration and climate change. It has also stepped up to provide refuge to more than 1 million Rohingya refugees who were forced to flee persecution and serious international crimes being committed against them across the border in Myanmar. Bangladesh also continues to face challenges on the human rights front, and I have been able to discuss many of these extensively with the Government and civil society members,” she said.

Bangladesh is also entering an election cycle, with general elections due next year, which tends to be a time of increased polarisation and tension.

“In such circumstances, what is key is that people from various sectors of society are heard and that they feel heard. Civil society members are important resources that governments need to tap into. Critical voices can help to identify the problems, to acknowledge them, to dive deep into the causes and discuss solutions. Acknowledging the challenges is always the first step to overcoming them,” said Bachelet.

“My exchanges with civil society representatives were rich and insightful – this was not surprising as Bangladesh has historically had a wealth of civil society expertise in various fields. But successive UN human rights reports have documented a narrowing civic space, increased surveillance, intimidation and reprisals often leading to self-censorship. Laws and policies over-regulating NGOs and broadly restricting the freedom of expression make it difficult – and sometimes risky – for them to function effectively,” Bachelet said.

Commenting on the upcoming election period, Bachelet stressed that it will be an important time for Bangladesh to maximize civic and political space, including freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly of political activists, human rights defenders, opposition parties and journalists.

It is also important to ensure that law enforcement forces have the necessary training to manage protests without resorting to the excessive use of force.

“There needs to be space for more dialogue among political parties and with a wide range of civil society actors to prevent grievances from building and erupting in social unrest. The voices of women, religious minorities and indigenous peoples, and especially young people need to be heard,” she said.

“I stressed the importance of protecting minority groups, such as Hindus and indigenous peoples from violence or land encroachments. The peace accord in the Chittagong Hill Tracts 25 years ago was an important achievement. But given the continued allegations of human rights violations, linked with land disputes and the need for demilitarization, I called for full implementation of the peace accord and unrestricted access for independent actors to visit the area,” Bachelet said.

Bachelet stated that Bangladesh has a solid framework in its constitution, laws, and international commitments to draw from in facing human rights challenges.

It is party to all the core UN human rights treaties, except for the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance – which she has called on the Government to ratify.

“Various UN human rights mechanisms – including the UN Committee Against Torture, have been raising concerns for several years about allegations of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killing, torture – many of which have been attributed to the Rapid Action Battalion – and the lack of accountability for such violations. I raised my deep concern about these serious allegations with Government ministers and highlighted the need for an impartial, independent and transparent investigation into these allegations, accompanied by security sector reform,” the High Commissioner said.

“There are continued, alarming allegations of both short-term and long-term enforced disappearances, and concerns about the lack of due process and judicial safeguards. Particularly given the long-standing frustrations at the lack of progress in investigations and other obstacles to justice, I encouraged the Government to create an independent, specialised mechanism that works closely with victims, families and civil society to investigate allegations of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings,” Bachelet said.

During the High commissioners visit to Bangladesh, she also visited Cox’s Bazar, Rohingya refugee camps. She praised the importance of Bangladesh’s humanitarian contribution – and its historical significance – stating it could not be overstated.

She called on the international community to sustain its support to Bangladesh in its response, and press Myanmar to create conditions for return, address the root causes and pursue accountability.

These are people who fled extreme violence and systematic discrimination five years ago, in one of the largest movements of people in recent history.

She described how in her conversations with women, young people, religious leaders and other Rohingya refugees in the camps there was a resounding hope that they will be able to return to their villages and homes in Myanmar.

“Unfortunately, the current situation across the border means that the conditions are not right for returns. Repatriation must always be conducted in a voluntary and dignified manner, only when safe and sustainable conditions exist in Myanmar,” she said.
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