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Bangladesh - November 23, 2023

US to use all its tools on BD

Industry Desk: The United States will continue to use all means (tools) to achieve its objectives on the Bangladesh issue and will raise its concerns with the Bangladesh government at all levels. Acting Assistant Secretary of State Philip G. Leidl of the Bureau of Legislative Affairs of the US Department of State said this in response to a letter. On the other hand, in a post on X, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said that the United States and its democratic partners are keeping a close eye on the electoral process of Bangladesh. The people of Bangladesh deserve free and fair elections, which should be transparent, peaceful, impartial and open to all parties. Seth Moulton, a member of the House of Representatives of the US Congress, recently wrote a letter to Donald Lu, Assistant Secretary of State of the US Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs and Erin Barclay, Acting Assistant Secretary of State of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Affairs, highlighting the deteriorating democracy, human rights and rule of law in Bangladesh. Answered by Philip G. Laidle. In his letter, it is said that in the meetings with senior Bangladeshi officials in Dhaka and Washington, US officials have raised concerns about human rights, democracy and rule of law in Bangladesh. The importance of a free and fair election has been emphasized in these meetings. In a letter dated November 14, Philip G. Leidl said that upholding human rights around the world is a top priority for the administration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. It is said that the United States will continue to use all tools to achieve its objectives and will raise its concerns with the Bangladesh government at all levels.
Earlier, in a letter written to Donald Lu and Erin Barclay, Seth Moulton said, “As the United States seeks to enrich democracy in the face of authoritarianism around the world, I urge you to prioritize the United States’ foreign aid and diplomatic issues in the case of Bangladesh.”
He also said, I am expressing my concern about the deterioration of democracy, human rights and rule of law in Bangladesh. Since the current ruling party Awami League came to power in 2009, there has been a dismal loss of democratic ideals and policies in Bangladesh. Corruption and fraud have compromised the integrity of democratic institutions, including the judiciary and the electoral process. Allegations of electoral irregularities, including suppression of opposition voices, erosion of checks and balances, ballot box stuffing and voter intimidation, have raised serious concerns for Bangladesh’s democracy. In addition, there has been a dramatic deterioration of the rule of law environment in Bangladesh amid frequent reports of increased extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture, Moulton wrote in the letter. The opposition is suppressed. The New York Times recently reported that more than half of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-more than 2.5 million members-face political motive charges. He also said that the human rights situation in Bangladesh has also worsened. Journalists, rights activists and members of civil society face threats, harassment and even jail time for promoting human rights and civil liberties. In that letter, he also said that human rights activists Adilur Rahman Khan and Nasiruddin Elan are accountable. They were jailed for two years in a politically motivated case. The United States has a moral obligation to express solidarity with Adilur Rahman Khan and Naseeruddin Elan. Those who work to uphold government accountability and basic human rights should also stand by. I applaud the strong steps taken by the United States in terms of visa bans against those who would obstruct the electoral process in Bangladesh, targeted sanctions against those involved in extrajudicial killings. A rights activist said these steps worked like a tonic. He called for emphasis on democracy and human rights during talks with Bangladeshi officials. In this regard, he called for priority on rights, democracy and citizen ‘space’ with US assistance in Bangladesh.
Acting Assistant Secretary of State Philip G. Laidle wrote in response to his letter, “We have held several rounds of discussions with senior Bangladeshi officials this year alone, prioritizing these issues.” US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen in April. It highlights our concerns about democracy and human rights in Bangladesh. Emphasis is placed on the importance of free and fair elections. In July and September, Under Secretary Uzra Zeya urged Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and senior Bangladeshi officials to encourage freedom of expression, expand space for civil society, and ensure free and fair elections in Bangladesh. He also said that on September 22, the US State Department announced new visa policies against lawmakers, ruling parties and opposition parties who obstructed democratic elections to expand the space of political freedom to reduce political violence. In addition, the visa ban policy serves as a safeguard against electoral fraud and interference. Acting Assistant Secretary of State Philip G. Laidle also wrote, USAID is focusing on the issue of shrinking space for political and civil society in Bangladesh. At the same time, support is being extended to anti-corruption initiatives and civil society in collaboration with other donor agencies. USAID and Britain have given 3 million dollars in funds for anti-corruption activities led by Transparency International Bangladesh. Of this, USAID gave one million dollars and the rest was given by Britain, Switzerland, Sweden and the Netherlands. He also wrote that the Ministry of External Affairs is publishing the Annual Country Report on Human Rights on an annual basis to assess the situation of human rights and the state of religious freedom. This report is based on information from our embassies, credible NGOs and our partners on the ground. Human rights violations are closely monitored and reported to the US Embassy in Dhaka. At the same time, concerns are raised when journalists, human rights activists and political opponents are targeted or harassed. We fund programs to promote democratic processes, strengthen civil society and religious freedom, promote respect for the rights of members of marginalized communities, access to justice and access to human rights.
He also wrote that Ambassador Peter Haas regularly raised public concerns about human rights in Bangladesh at the highest levels and with various partners. The embassy in Dhaka issued a statement expressing concern over the verdict against the rights officials. On October 15, Adilur Rahman Khan and Nasiruddin Elan were released on bail after serving 30 days in jail. A day later, they attended a civil society roundtable hosted by Ambassador Peter Haas, visiting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Afrin Akhtar. Over the past 18 months, Foreign Minister Anthony Blinken has recognized a number of brave Bangladeshis who have worked for human rights and the rule of law with US State Department awards.

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