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Elections and Human Rights in Bangladesh

  • 2200 Rayburn House Office Building (map)

Thursday, November 15, 2018
2:30 – 3:30 p.m.
2200 Rayburn House Office Building

Please join the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) for a briefing on how political tension related to the upcoming elections in Bangladesh is impacting human rights in the country.

Bangladesh has faced increasingly difficult human rights challenges in recent years. The country’s decision to open its border to approximately 800,000 Rohingya refugees fleeing gross human rights violations in Burma has been applauded by the international community. On the other hand, the Bangladeshi government’s targeting of political opposition groups and proponents of free speech threatens to shutter civil society and increase extremism. With parliamentary elections only a few months away, political violence and a wide range of other human rights abuses are on the rise throughout the country.

Bangladeshi security forces, particularly the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), have allegedly carried out extrajudicial killings against the political opposition under the guise of the government’s so-called war on drugs. Reuters estimates that security forces killed over 200 people between May and August of 2018. Arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances are also common, often targeting the regime’s political opponents, bloggers, journalists and other human rights activists.

In this context, minority groups, women and children are particularly vulnerable to systematic violence. Hindus, Buddhists and Christians regularly face discrimination. Hindus have been subjected to illegal land seizures and the destruction of their temples and homes, which has contributed to a decline in the number of Hindus living in the country. Effective protection strategies are needed to combat sex trafficking, child labor and child marriage, particularly since 52 percent of girls under the age of 18 are married.

Panelists will analyze the human rights situation within this complex environment and offer recommendations for what more the U.S. government and the international community can do to encourage Bangladesh to protect individual rights and freedoms and ensure that the upcoming elections are free and fair.

Panelists:

  • John Sifton, Asia Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch

  • Waris Husain, Policy Analyst, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom

  • Laura Bramon, Senior Program Manager, Child Protection and Education, World Vision US

Moderator:

  • Mona Dave, Senior Program Officer, Asia, National Endowment for Democracy

Opening Remarks

  • Rep. Randy Hultgren, Co-Chair, Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission

  • Rep. James P. McGovern, Co-Chair, Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission

This briefing is open to Members of Congress, congressional staff, the interested public, and the media. For any questions, please contact Jamie Staley (for Mr. Hultgren) at (202-226-1516) or Jamie.Staley@mail.house.gov or Kimberly Stanton (for Mr. McGovern) at 202-225-3599 or Kimberly.Stanton@mail.house.gov.