Sharing Discussing Understanding

Commonwealth Journalists' Association

Bangladesh’s foreign minister, Dipu Moni, insisted the human rights situation for  her people is “better than any time in the past ” at a high-profile panel debate organised by the Commonwealth Journalists Association (UK) last month.

Despite facing tough questions from a distinguished group of speakers including Keith Best, chief executive of Freedom from Torture and former UK High Commissioner to Bangladesh Peter Fowler, Dr Moni robustly defended her Bangladesh Awami League party’s record in power.

The foreign minister, who has been in her post since 2009, rejected criticisms from human rights groups, which have in recent years complained about extra-judicial killings, custodial torture and intimidation of journalists, saying: “We will exercise zero tolerance in terms of human rights violations.”

“Some human rights organisations in the country might feel threatened because when the human rights agenda becomes the government’s agenda then some of them might lose funding, so that might be their worry. But we will always be vigilant.”

“When we say we are totally committed to upholding human rights we mean it,” she said. The foreign minister also said that her party, which was founded in 1949 and most recently won the 2008 parliamentary elections, could be entrusted to ensure the country does not let democracy “decline”.

“We have never gone to office through any other means but by elections – proper elections. We were thrown out by military coup, by assassinations, all sorts of things, and the only time there was a peaceful handover of power from one government to another was when our leader transferred power… in 2001.”

“Our people will never let our democracy slide back to those days, however a confrontational a politics we might have,” she said.

The panel debate received a great deal of attention from the Bangladeshi media. See below for one news report from BDNews24:

Govt ‘didn’t hinder Grameen Bank’

The government never impeded the activities of Grameen Bank, the foreign minister has claimed and said it only investigated former managing director Muhammed Yunus which revealed ‘a lot of things’.

Speaking at a seminar in London on Thursday, Dipu Moni also said the government did not drag the Nobel Peace laureate to court, instead it was Yunus himself who decided to move the court.

“We didn’t take him to court. It was Prof Yunus who entered the court (first),” Dipu Moni insisted.