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EP worried over rights situation

Delegation says European Parliament concerned about freedom of speech, urges 'agreed mechanism' for 2019 polls

Feb 15 2016 - A European Parliament (EP) delegation has expressed concern over the human rights situation in Bangladesh, and called for an impartial investigation into all the cases of blogger killings.

Jean Lambert

Jean Lambert

Jean Lambert, who led a four-member EP delegation to Bangladesh, yesterday said they during a meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday had raised four specific issues including human rights, murder of bloggers and rise of violent extremism at international level.

“We have serious concerns about the human rights situation in the country and raised the issue of the murder of bloggers,” said Lambert, the chair of the EP delegation on relations with the countries of South Asia, at a press conference in Dhaka.

“The life of every Bangladeshi citizen is important and we requested the full and impartial investigation of all the cases.”

She also urged the government to make an environment where bloggers and other free thinkers feel that their freedom of expression was “valued”.

European Union (EU) Ambassador in Dhaka Pierre Mayaudon was also present at the press conference yesterday afternoon before the four-member delegation concluded its three-day Bangladesh visit and left the country.

On the state of press freedom in Bangladesh, Lambert said they had “some concerns” about what was happening to some newspaper editors in the country.

“I think it is fair to say that we have some concerns about what is happening to a number of editors of the newspapers.”

Asked if her delegation had touched the issue during the meeting with the prime minister, Lambert replied in the negative.

She also said nothing related to elections had been discussed in the meeting either.

But “it is very clear that there is a need for some agreed mechanisms,” Lambert said, adding that such a mechanism was required in Bangladesh to ensure participation of “many parties” in the elections.

She also made it clear that neither the European Union nor the European Parliament will make any recommendation on the polls-time administration.

“Neither the EP nor anybody else would be coming and saying that ‘This is what you do’ … We will not make any recommendation.

“It’s something to be decided by the people of Bangladesh. It’s your decision,” Lambert added.

However, in a press statement distributed at the press conference, the EP said, “Concretely, the delegation expressed its desire for free and fair elections in 2019.”

Though the election issue was not discussed with Hasina, the delegation discussed the issue of “an independent and strong” Election Commission in meetings with different other stakeholders, according to Lambert.

She said the EP delegation welcomed Hasina’s commitment for further joint collaboration with the EU on better understanding the causes of radicalisation internationally, “bearing in mind the important role Bangladesh plays in the OIC (Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation)”.

During the February 10-12 visit, the delegation met Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed, Law Minister Anisul Huq, Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali and State Minister for CHT Affairs Bir Bahadur Ushwe Sing.

It also had talks with BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, National Human Rights Commission Chairman Prof Mizanur Rahman, officials of Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, and representatives of different business and civil society platforms.

In the meetings, the EP delegation discussed several issues, including improvement of the workers’ rights and safety in the garment sector, promotion of European investment in Bangladesh and boosting economic cooperation.

This piece was originally published in The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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