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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 219
December 17, 2005

This week's issue:
Human Rights Advocacy
Law Campaign
Law Report
Law Opinion
Rights Investigation
Fact File
Law Event
Law Week

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Law Week

Terror talks start amid opposition boycott
The national dialogue on how to stop bomb terrorism in the country begins in absence of the mainstream opposition parties and pro-opposition professional bodies. The much-talked about dialogue of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia kicked off with the talks with Krishak Sramik Janata League at the prime minister's office (PMO). Leaders of Bangladesh Medical Association are also scheduled to meet the prime minister. HM Ershad's Jatiya Party, the second largest opposition in parliament, ruling alliance partners, some minor political parties, and different pro-government organisations that include associations of lawyers, doctors, engineers, agriculturists, journalists and other professionals will join the dialogue amid boycott of the main opposition Awami League (AL)-led 14 party alliance.-- The Daily Star, December 12.

Tele-tapping legalised
President Iajuddin Ahmed has promulgated an ordinance, with immediate effect, allowing intelligence and law enforcement agencies to tap telephone conversations of any individual amid a national outcry. The president signed the ordinance, labelled as black law by legal experts, rights activists, political, social and business leaders, fearing harassment and misuse of the telecoms act. The ordinance has to be passed by the Jatiya Sangsad (JS) in its next session due in January next year. Telephones can be tapped only with the permission of the chief executive of the home ministry, the ordinance says.
The cabinet on December 5 approved the proposed amendments to Bangladesh Telecom-munications Act, 2001, allowing law enforcers eavesdropping on phones. Although the amendments were supposed to be passed in the next session of the JS, the government promulgated this ordinance. --The Daily Star, December 13..

Fresh voter list move challenged in court
Two separate writ petitions were filed with the High Court, challenging the legality of the activities to prepare a fresh voter list for the next parliamentary election. Both the petitions--one filed by Awami League (AL) General Secretary Abdul Jalil and the other by two AL lawmakers--are likely to be heard at the High Court. Noted jurist Dr Kamal Hossain and Barrister Rokanuddin Mahmud will move for AL lawmakers Advocate Rahmat Ali and Asaduzzaman Noor and Barrister Amir- Ul Islam for Abdul Jalil. Both the petitions term the unilateral decision by the chief election commissioner (CEC) to go for a fresh electoral register illegal and a violation of the constitution. They seek a stay order on the EC activities in preparation for a fresh roll. The Election Commission (EC), EC Secretariat, CEC, Election Commissioners M Munsef Ali and AK Mohammad Ali, and Secretary to the EC secretariat SM Zakaria were made respondents in the petitions. --Prothom Alo, December 13.

Speedy Trial Act to get 2-yr extension
A cabinet meeting approved the draft of the Law and Order Disruption Crimes (Speedy Trial) Act (Amendments), 2002, for retaining it for two more years for the second time. The act was due to expire on April 9 next year. The meeting also extended the ban on cutting trees in the reserved and natural forests for five years more. The ban was first put in 1990 for ten years and later extended for five years that is due to expire this year. Prime Minister Khaleda Zia presided over the meeting where cabinet members, the cabinet secretary, principal secretary to the prime minister, and other secretaries concerned were present. The government enacted The Speedy Trial Act on April 9, 2002, for a two-year term. Upon its expiry on April 10, 2004, the act was extended for two years. The Speedy Trial Act deals with offences like extortion, manipulation of tender bidding, obstructing the movement of vehicles, ransacking, mugging, creating untoward situation and obstructing any public servant in his/her duties. The meeting also approved the proposed list of holidays for 2006 for the government, semi-government and autonomous organisations. -- The Daily Star, December 13.

One dies a week in ship breaking
On average one worker dies every week and one gets injured every day at the ship-breaking yards in Bangladesh and the number of casualties is on the rise, said a survey report styled "End of Life Ships-The Human Cost of Breaking Ships" that was presented at a city restaurant. Released simultaneously in Bangladesh, India and Switzerland, the report was prepared by globally acclaimed organisations Greenpeace and FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) in cooperation with Chittagong-based non-government organisation YPSA (Young Power in Social Action). The survey by the three organisations estimated that the total death toll in ship-breaking yards worldwide in last twenty years might be several thousand while in Bangladesh the figure would be at least 1,000. "Such official or estimated figures, however, do not include casualties as a result of diseases related to the toxic fumes and materials the workers are exposed to the whole day work," the report mentioned. --The Daily Star, December 13.

Dhaka's not joining to cost it voting rights
Bangladesh will lose voting right in the meetings of UN-Escap working group on the Asian Highway unless it signs the agreement or the deadline is extended beyond December 31, keeping the chances of joining the network open, experts said. A meeting of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-Escap) working group begins tomorrow in Bangkok where an additional foreign secretary will represent the country. However, there was no sign of efforts as of yet to have the deadline extended at the working group meeting, sources said. On expiry of the deadline, the signatory countries will acquire the authority to decide the future course of actions concerning the Asian Highway while Bangladesh will remain only an observer if it does not sign the agreement, the experts said. They said Dhaka should pursue the extension of the deadline or change in the route, none of which depends any longer on the Escap. --The Daily Star, December 14.

Right to information way of empowering people
A two-day conference on right to information started in the city with a plenary sharing some regional experiences in securing and campaigning for what the United Nations terms a fundamental human right and a touchstone for other rights. Speakers at the talks asked the government to immediately scrap all restrictive laws like the Official Secrets Act and to enact the draft Right to Information Act that has been gathering dust with the law ministry since 2002. Manusher Jonno (MJ), an initiative promoting human rights and good governance in the country, organised the conference titled 'Right to Information: National and Regional Perspective' at the Bangladesh Institute of Administration and Management (Biam) as a part of its ongoing campaign to institute people's right to know. The event brought together a number of resource persons from home and abroad, jurists, media leaders and professionals, rights activists, academics, bureaucrats, NGO leaders and other eminent civil society members as well as the partner organisations of the MJ. --The Daily Star, December 14.

HC halts jetty building on Cox's Bazar sea beach
The High Court (HC) ordered the government to refrain from constructing a jetty at the Cox's Bazar-Teknaf sea beach. A HC division bench comprising Justice MA Matin and Justice M Rezaul Haque issued an interim injunction. It also asked the government and other authorities concerned to explain why the decision to construct the jetty for commercial purposes in the ecologically critical area (ECA) should not be considered unlawful. The injunction and the rule came upon a public interest litigation (PIL) writ filed by the Bangladesh Environment Lawyers' Association (Bela) challenging the validity of the move by the Sea Beach Management Committee (SBMC) disparaging the Environment Conservation Act and rules. On November 13, the SBMC approved a plan to construct a jetty in the ECA of the world's longest sea beach to introduce tourist facilities like water sports, cruises and floating restaurants and aids for rescue and security operations. --UNB, Dhaka, December 14.

Corresponding with the Law Desk
Please send your mails, queries, and opinions to: Law Desk, The Daily Star 19 Karwan Bazar, Dhaka-1215; telephone 8124944,8124955,fax 8125155;email <dslawdesk@yahoo.co.uk,lawdesk@thedailystar.net


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