Friday, December 11, 2009

HR watchdog wants independent probe

Govt to appoint 5 members to rev up HR commission

By Bangladesh Media; The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said yesterday it wants independent probe into the allegations of extra-judicial killings. “As they [law enforcers] provide different versions on [killings in] encounters, we want independent investigation. This is possible for us only when we have adequate staffs,” NHRC Chairman Justice Amirul Kabir Chowdhury said responding to media queries on 'crossfire'.

He was talking to journalists after the inaugural session of a seminar in the city on “Protection and promotion of human rights in Bangladesh: the role of National Human Rights Commission, law enforcement agencies and NGOs”, organised by the NHRC to mark the World Human Rights Day.

Law Minister Shafique Ahmed, who spoke at the seminar as chief guest, said the government would appoint five members of the commission within a month, and provide logistic and other facilities to make it a vibrant entity. The NHCR Ordinance was promulgated in 2007 during the caretaker government's tenure, and a three-member commission was formed last year. But two members resigned.

Amirul Kabir said the commission issued letters to the authorities concerned late in October on the killing of a person -- Bappy-- allegedly by law enforcement agency personnel, and some other similar allegations, but it is yet to get any response. It is unfortunate that sometimes members of law enforcement agencies violate human rights, he said. “They have a pivotal role in protecting rights. So, the image of these agencies as a whole should not be tarnished by a few.”

The NHRC, which now has only nine staff, requested the government on December 2 last year to raise the number to 62, said its chairman. Asked if the commission has turned into an ineffective organisation, he said. “No, we are working with whatever resources we have.”

Of the 80 complaints received so far, the commission has already disposed of 60, Kabir said. The law minister said the NHRC would be fully operative with the appointment of all members of the commission. Of them, one would be a full member, one a woman member and one would be from the indigenous community.
Asked why the government is taking so long to complete the task, he said it is not exactly so. “The law (concerned) had to be changed in the middle this year.” Others who spoke at the seminar included UNDP Resident Representative Renata Lok Dessallien and Law Commission Member M Shah Alam.

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