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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: 241
October 22, 2011

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Urge to ensure human rights for refugees

Md. Golam Sarwar

In this present world, with the change of time the prudence of human rights is expanded to a large extent being the major concern of modern age. The expansion of human rights arena also includes the protection of refugee rights which is sounding globally in this contemporary world. In Bangladesh the Rohingya ethnic minority of Burma is one of the most persecuted and at the same time one of the largest stateless groups in the world. But the unfortunate thing is that the basic human rights of refugees are largely ignored especially right to life, movement, right to work, right to protection of law or access to court is denied to the refugees etc. Keeping this scenario in mind, Empowerment through Law of the common people (ELCOP) is working laboriously since its journey to create awareness as well as to ensure basic human rights for the most vulnerable segment of human kind. It is a well known fact that Human rights implantation in the administrative mindset has attained a place of prominence nowadays. Absence of human rights oriented administration system creates hindrance to attain the excellence of governance system. To come out from this scenario, the orientation of human rights particularly refugee rights among the member of law enforcing agencies can play a significant role. With a view to contribute in this context, ELCOP is working through the exploitation of its expertise to promote, protect, defend the rights of the refugees by conducting training on refugee law.

On part of this, two day long training on refugee issues was organized by ELCOP and commissioned by National Human rights Commission on 14th & 15th October. The training sessions included interactive lecture, presenting paper, group exercise and presentation. The participants were from the members of BGB, law graduates, practitioners, and representative from media.

In the inaugural session Prof.Dr.Mizanur Rahman, Chairman, National Human rights Commission Bangladesh made a clear discussion about the basic understanding of human rights. He explained the concept “human rights” with its particular emphasis on indivisibility, interrelatedness, universality and inalienability. Human rights are those rights by which people's dignity is ensured, he said.

Mr. Sayeed Ahmed, expert, NHRC UNDP capacity development project, made a presentation on origin and development of human rights and refugee law and their correlation. One of the important aspect of protection and promotion of human rights is to make responsible the government to ensure those rights. The state is under an obligation to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the rights of people, he added.

S. M. Masum Billah, Assistant Professor of Law, Jagannath University and Coordinator, Community Law Reform (CLR), ELCOP, took an interactive session on national and international legal regime on the refugee rights. He interpreted certain provisions of the constitution of Bangladesh which can be a safeguard to protect the rights of the refugees. He mentioned some national laws (Foreigners Act, Extradition Act, Citizenship Act, Passport Act) dealing with foreigners which are not specifically suitable for the refugees. As a result the problems arising out of the Rohingya society (for example: obtaining Bangladesh passport by practicing fraud, integration through marriage, obtaining voter ID, smuggling etc) could not be handled smoothly by the administration and law enforcing society.

Mr. Masum identified accession of 1951 convention a great challenge for the government and stressed the need to discuss in a greater scale the advantage and disadvantage of ratification. Being a party to the convention we can reiterate our commitment to the international community as well as commitment to the national constitution, he noted.

Mr. Shafiqur Rahman Khan, Faculty, Jagannath University, Dhaka and Director, Human Rights Summer School, ELCOP focused on the concept of refugee protection, why protection needed, the fundamental basis/principles of protection. As a vista of this protection, the role of UNHCR, International Community, Host State, Non-Governmental Organizations were also focused in this session.

Among others, Ms.Sannaya Fahim Ansari, Advocate Supreme Court of Bangladesh and DIG Mr.Matiar Rahman took two sessions about concept of Refugee, Asylum and Non-refoulment and treatment of refugees by the law enforcing agencies in camps respectively.

At the end of all formal sessions, certificates were awarded to the participants. Prof.Dr.Mizanur Rahman, chairman NHRC and Dr. Rahmat ullah, Executive Director, ELCOP distributed the certificates among participants.

The writer is working with Law Desk, The Daily Star.



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