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Debates
Thursday, 15 November 2018 - Strasbourg Provisional edition

The human rights situation in Bangladesh
MPphoto
 

  Christos Stylianides, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, the European Union has a substantial and long-lasting relationship with Bangladesh. Our political dialogue has intensified over the past months in the context of the refugee crisis.

We appreciate the Government’s and people of Bangladesh’s efforts to host the Rohingya refugees. The return of the refugees to their place of origin remains the objective, but it must be voluntary, safe, sustainable and dignified. It should not go against those fundamental requirements. It is important that the return of refugees is conducted in line with international law and with the involvement of UNHCR. It is critical that the conditions in Rakhine State are conducive for a safe and sustainable return.

Human rights are a key priority of our dialogue with Bangladesh. The EU regularly expresses its concerns on the situation of human rights, and we see it as a positive development that the Government of Bangladesh is engaging with the EU on this issue.

In joint press statements adopted at the Sub-group on Good Governance and Human Rights in April, and at the Diplomatic Consultations held in Dhaka in July, the authorities undertook to address the shortages and enforce policies respectful of human rights, fundamental freedoms and democracy. However, the situation is of serious concern and more needs to be done: human rights and fundamental freedoms are being increasingly challenged as parliamentary elections are coming close.

While continuing its dialogue with the Government of Bangladesh, together with EU Member States and other like-minded partners on the ground, the EU has addressed this in a number of recent public statements. This was particularly necessary in the context of the reaction to the recent Digital Security Act and violence against students and press during the summer. We are notably very concerned over the situation of Mr Shahidul Alam.

The preparation of the parliamentary elections is discussed regularly with the Bangladeshi authorities. The EU expects that the upcoming elections will be held in a transparent, inclusive and impartial way. The rule of law, freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly should be upheld and protected. The Government needs to ensure a safe and enabling environment for civil society, journalists and human rights defenders. As regards labour rights, the Government needs to fully implement the International Labour Organization’s recommendations, notably on freedom of association.

Human rights are a crucial part of the EU’s development cooperation with Bangladesh, with more than EUR 40 million committed for democratic governance. The EU focuses on ensuring democratic ownership through engagement with civil society, promoting democratic empowerment and local governance, notably by addressing access to justice.

(Applause)

 
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