Bangladesh Prepares To Review Constitution as Human Rights Groups Cite Abuse
July 22, 2010
By: Randi Zung

The Coalition for Freedom and Democracy in Bangladesh, a United States-based alliance of human rights activists and faith-based leaders, has called on the United States government to condemn the recent political crackdowns on the ruling government’s political opposition in Bangladesh.  According to a release by PR Newswire, the ruling Awami League government has taken measures to suppress its opposition by closing several media outlets, arresting opposition leaders and students, and by stripping the country’s independent judiciary of its power. 

In June 2010, high level officials from Bangladesh Jamat Islami (BJI), the largest democratic Islamic party, were arrested on what human rights groups have identified as bogus charges.  Reverend Grayland Hagler, a member of the alliance, called the ruling Bangladeshi government an “autocratic regime.”  In addition, the American Muslim Task Force for Civil Rights and Elections also expressed concern over the recent crackdowns stating that they contribute to further instability in the already fragile political environment.  The alliance also called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to launch an investigation into human rights abuses.

On July 22, Zee News reported that Bangladesh had formed a 15-member parliamentary committee to amend the country’s constitution.  Working with the aim to reinvigorate the political climate, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina stated, “We must amend the articles, in line with the High Court directives, which were inserted or amended through the military orders if we want to return the power to the people and continue the democratic practice.”  Hasina’s statement pointed to Bangladesh’s history of coups and military rule.  While the move to review the country’s constitution appears to be a positive step towards strengthening Bangladeshi democracy, Indian news outlet Sify, reported that several opposition parties have decided to abstain from taking part in the 15-member parliamentary committee.

The Awami League, a secular party, became the governing party after winning the country’s 2008 parliamentary election.  According to the party’s constitution, the Awami League’s four guiding principles are: nationalism, democracy, secularism, and socialism.

PR Newswire - Democracy Crisis in Bangladesh

Zee News - Bangladesh forms parliamentary panel to amend constitution

Sify News - Bangladesh to review its constitution

Also See:
US State Department Country Profile – Bangladesh