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This report is on comparison of human rights practices by the government of Bangladesh and USA.
State,” declared Harold Laski, a prominent British political scientist and philosopher, “is known by the rights that it maintains and protects.” A clear comprehension about the notion of rights is needed, especially of human rights of the citizens and role of the state, to understand its underlying meaning. Civic rights, which form the basis of human rights, are characterized by the notion that people are born with certain inalienable rights like right to life, liberty, property, trial through due process of law, freedom from unfair, cruel, and inhuman treatment, and freedom of expression and association regardless of nationality, sex, age, ethnic origin, race, religion, language, or other status, and cannot be violated by any individual or organization, or even the state.
These rights have their roots in the ancient and religious laws as divine and natural, as well as in the secular contract between the rulers and the ruled. As such, it is immoral and against the contract to violate human rights. Since the days of enlightenment this notion has been firmly entrenched in the psyche of modern political thinkers and philosophers. Every state must have proper legal instruments and institutions to protect these rights. States should also guarantee and protect as much as possible the wide range of civil and political rights that are the gifts of democracy. The character of the state comes to the fore, according to Laski, by the way it treats these rights of its citizens. He noted that a state with wide ranging human, civil and political rights is democratic with a developed society, whereas a state with little or no human rights, not to speak of the other rights, obviously would be non-democratic and underdeveloped.
2. HUMAN RIGHTS LAW IN BANGLADESH
The Constitution of Bangladesh lists a wide range of rights of its citizens. But it does not protect most of the civil and political rights, excepting that it is constitutionally bound to protect the human rights of its people. Needless to say, that is the least one can expect from a democratic state. Bangladesh is a democratic country. As such, it must then guarantee and protect these basic and minimum rights. Question is: does it? What is the human rights situation in Bangladesh like?
According to the recent reports (2010)) on the State of Human Rights in Bangladesh by USAID, Asian Human Rights Watch Commission, Odhikar and Ain o Salish Kendra to name a few the picture is very disturbing and gloomy as the country witnessed rampant and gross violations of human rights. The thing to worry about is that the human rights situation has worsened from the previous year.
The first concern of the people is the way the ruling regime is trying to suppress the opposition. Records indicate that top ranking opposition leaders have been assaulted by the law enforcing agencies and hundreds of opposition activists are in jail without any specific charges. This does not augur well for democracy. Another phenomenon directly related with democracy is freedom of the press. Unfortunately, the regime’s attempts to gag and harass the press have been evidenced by the incidents of killing (4), assaulting (43), and threatening journalists (49) (Odhikar, 2010) are extremely detrimental to the interests of democracy.
2.1 Extrajudicial killings
Violation of people’s rights to life and dignity by law enforcing agencies is worrisome. As many 68 extra-judicial killings by Rab took place in 2010, raising the figure from 41<href=”#_ftn5″ name=”_ftnref5″ title=””>. Besides, there have been numerous deaths and incidents of torture of victims in police custody. Torture in custody ranges from severe beating, electric shocks, hanging the victims upside down and then beating from waist down, pouring hot water, cigarette burns etc., (USAID Report, 2010). A new phenomenon is police-instigated killings of innocent young men at Amin Bazar and Noakhali. The number of politically motivated violence by the student cadres of the ruling party, which violates human rights, is also on the rise.
Even more disturbing are the disappearances, kidnappings and secret killings by the security forces. Some of the incidents, especially kidnappings, may have been done by private citizens, but in most cases Rab was involved. Rab’s involvement is almost certain in the recent secret killings of three young men whose dead bodies were found later. According to USAID report, the number of such incidents has been on the rise.
2.2 Women’s rights
Eve teasing has remained a concern since many years. But the fact that it has taken a massive shape is of great concern. The practice of eve-teasing is a form of sexual assault that ranges in brutality from catcalls, sexually evocative remarks, brushing in public places, to outright groping and very recently teasing by mobile phone and mobile tracking.
According to the report from ‘Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association’ (BNWLA) the probable eve-teasers on the streets of Bangladesh are teenage boys, traffic police, rickshaw pullers, bus drivers, supervisors or colleagues of the working women. Statistics suggests 32% of the eve teasers are students, 33% are middle-aged men while 35% are anti-socials.
For the development of the economy of our nation, women who compose of almost half of our population need to participate in the employment sector. But unfortunate for them eve teasers are hindering their participation. For protective measure the Government of Bangladesh has pursued a number of legal measures, both direct and indirect to minimize the violence against women and uphold their rights.
A few of the legal acts are in chronological order:
• Penal Code, Section 375, 1860
• The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898
• The Child Marriage Control Act, 1929
• The Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act, 1939
• The Muslim Marriages and Divorces Registration Act, 1974
• The Dhaka Metropolitan Police Ordinance (DMPO) of 1976
• The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1980
• The Family Court Ordinance, 1985
• The Legal Aid Provision Act, 2000
• The Prevention of Women and Children Repression Act, 2000
• The Acid Crime Prevention Act, 2002
• The Acid Control Act, 2002
As stated above in the Prevention of Women and Children Repression Act, 2000, a remarkable provision was mentioned in article 10 that teasing women through vulgar gestures and comments is offensive and the punishment for such act would be simple imprisonment for seven years or two years of meticulous imprisonment.
But then again in 2003, the act was amended stating that no one would be charged of sexual abuse until and unless it is physical. Therefore, those who usually disturb women in the streets, malls or buses would no longer fall under this law. In order to defend this act, the government said that the provision in the form of the above act was to abuse to harass rivals and those usual cases were that the claimants could not prove any cases of eve teasing<href=”#_ftn8″ name=”_ftnref8″ title=””>.
2.3 Freedom of religion
Although initially Bangladesh opted for a secular nationalist ideology as embodied in its Constitution, the principle of secularism was subsequently replaced by a commitment to the Islamic way of life through a series of constitutional amendments and government proclamations between 1977 and 1988. The Constitution establishes Islam as the state religion but provides for the right to practice subject to law, public order, and morality the religion of one’s choice. The Government generally respects this provision in practice.
2.4 Intimidation of human rights defenders, journalists, and the opposition
Voices of opposition are ever more at risk in Bangladesh, as groups who document or speak out against the actions of the government have found themselves increasingly threatened and under attack. Human rights organizations also operate under the threat of assault from the authorities and government supporters. On August 8, 2005, a group of BNP members attacked two human rights activists, who had been investigating torture against an Ahmadi. Journalists face the same fate: for three years, the organization Reporters sans Frontières, has named Bangladesh the country with the largest number of journalists physically attacked or threatened with death. The government has no intention of protecting journalists, whereas Islamist groups continue to intensify their intimidation of the independent news media.
Bangladesh- National Human Rights Commission
This NHRC can investigate human rights violations but is empowered to only settle issues or refer them to the court. This ordinance was passed when the state of emergency is going on<href=”#_ftn11″ name=”_ftnref11″ title=””>.
2.5 Function of the NHRC
The functions of the commission will include investigating any allegation of human rights violation received from any individual or quarter, or the commission itself can initiate investigation into any incident of rights violation. The commission would be empowered to investigate particular human rights violation allegations brought forward by citizens or discovered through their own monitoring<href=”#_ftn12″ name=”_ftnref12″ title=””>. If a human rights violation has been proved, the NHRC can either settle the matter or pass it on to the court or relevant authorities.
3. HUMAN RIGHTS LAW IN USA:
Human rights in the United States are legally protected by the Constitution of the United States, including the amendments, state constitutions, conferred by treaty, and enacted legislatively through Congress, state legislatures, and state referenda and citizen’s initiatives. Federal courts in the United States have jurisdiction over international human rights laws as a federal question, arising under international law, which is part of the law of the United States.
3.1 Domestic legal protection structure
According to Human Rights: The Essential Reference, “the American Declaration of Independence was the first civic document that met a modern definition of human rights. The Constitution recognizes a number of inalienable human rights, including freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, the right to keep and bear arms, freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, and the right to a fair trial by jury<href=”#_ftn13″ name=”_ftnref13″ title=””>.
Constitutional amendments have been enacted as the needs of the society evolved. The Ninth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment recognize that not all human rights have yet been enumerated. The Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act are examples of human rights that were enumerated by Congress well after the Constitution’s writing. The scope of the legal protections of human rights afforded by the US government is defined by case law, particularly by the precedent of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Within the federal government, the debate about what may or may not be an emerging human right is held in two forums: the United States Congress, which may enumerate these; and the Supreme Court, which may articulate rights that the law does not spell out. Additionally, individual states, through court action or legislation, have often protected human rights not recognized at federal level. For example, Massachusetts was the first of several states to recognize same sex marriage.
3.2 Freedom of religion
The establishment clause of the first amendment prohibits the establishment of a national religion by Congress or the preference of one religion over another. The free exercise clause guarantees the free exercise of religion.
3.3 Freedom of expression
The United States, like other liberal democracies, is supposed to be a constitutional republic based on founding documents that restrict the power of government to preserve the liberty of the people. The freedom of expression including speech, media, and public assembly is an important right and is given special protection, as declared by the First Amendment of the constitution. According to Supreme Court precedent, the federal and lower governments may not apply prior restraint to expression, with certain exceptions, such as national security and obscenity. There is no law punishing insults against the government, ethnic groups, or religious groups.
3.4 Right to peaceably assemble
Although Americans are supposed to enjoy the freedom to peacefully protest, protesters are sometimes mistreated, beaten, arrested, jailed or fired upon. During the fall of 2011, large numbers of protesters taking part in the “Occupy movement” in cities around the country were arrested on various charges during protests for economic and political reforms.
3.5 Freedom of association
Freedom of association is the right of individuals to come together in groups for political action or to pursue common interests. Freedom of association in the U.S. is restricted by the Smith Act, which bans political parties that advocate the violent overthrow of the U.S. government.
3.6 National security exceptions
The United States government has declared martial law, suspended (or claimed exceptions to) some rights on national security grounds, typically in wartime and conflicts such as the United States Civil War, Cold War or the War against Terror 70,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were legally interned during World War II under Executive Order 9066. In some instances the federal courts have allowed these exceptions, while in others the courts have decided that the national security interest was insufficient. Presidents Lincoln, Wilson, and F.D. Roosevelt ignored such judicial decisions.
Human rights principles are recognized universally as a framework which protects everyone and limits arbitrary action by a state against individuals. The principles also balance the rights of individuals so as to promote tolerance, equality, dignity and respect in a democratic society. Government operates through laws, but also through institutions, such as hospitals, prisons and young offenders’ institutions. The government recognizes its obligation not to take life arbitrarily and to safeguard the lives of people in its care (Article 2, the right to life) and that torture and inhuman and degrading treatment are prohibited (Article 3) so our institutions are regulated and inspected, and follow guidelines and codes of practice to prevent arbitrary abuses of power. Independent bodies which subject institutions to scrutiny should something go wrong, and provide an avenue of redress for individuals. These regulatory and inspection services and independent investigatory bodies are meant to ensure that public services meet minimum standards, abuses do not occur and that when abuses or deaths occur they are investigated. They form a valuable part of the infrastructure protecting human rights.
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