The UK has said Bangladesh continued to play a vital role in hosting a significant number of Rohingya people noting that there was "no improvement" in the overall human rights situation in Bangladesh in 2019.
Bangladesh maintained its commitment to the voluntary, safe, and dignified return of the Rohingyas to Myanmar, according to the Human Rights and Democracy: The 2019 Foreign and Commonwealth Office report released on Thursday.
Rohingyas are the world’s largest population of stateless people displaced by the actions of the Tatmadaw (the Myanmar army).
There were reports of significant criminality in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, where approximately 855,000 Rohingya refugees are living, the report mentioned in its Bangladesh part.
These included murder (around 30 cases), gender-based violence, abduction, illegal drug trading, and human trafficking.
The government introduced additional police stations, fences around the camps, and limited night-time patrols by mixed security forces, the UK report mentioned.
In September, the government introduced restrictions on access to the internet in the camps, citing security concerns following a peaceful rally in the Kutupalong camp on 25 August, a number of violent incidents and increased tension with host communities, said the report.
To help manage the protracted Rohingya crisis, the UK committed an additional £117 million, delivered through UN agencies and NGOs, prioritising the protection of rights, including essential documentation, child protection, anti-trafficking measures, case management for survivors of abuse and exploitation, and legal assistance services.
The total UK commitment since August 2017 stood at £256 million.
The UK supported Bangladesh and other partners to enable the presence of Rohingya refugees at the International Court of Justice hearings on Myanmar in December.
More broadly in Bangladesh, UK programme funds supported projects addressing human rights priorities including modern slavery (female migrant workers’ rights); democratic governance (indigenous people’s inclusion); freedom of expression (research on the DSA and digital advocacy); and media freedom, according to the report.
The ruling Awami League and its allies returned to power in December 2018, winning 96% of parliamentary seats.
The number of death sentences issued increased, and at least two executions were carried out.
Throughout the year, UK ministers met opposition politicians, media representatives, and indigenous leaders, and in April the then Minister for Asia, Mark Field, raised human rights concerns with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said the UK report.
Under the 2018 Digital Security Act (DSA), 42 people were arrested, often on charges of hurting religious sentiment, or undermining law and order, said the report.
The provisions of the DSA were criticised as empowering the government to arrest and detain journalists, human rights activists, and political opponents.
In July, Bangladesh submitted its initial country report to the UN Committee Against Torture on measures it had taken to uphold its commitments under the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT).
Bangladesh’s engagement with the Committee, the first time since its accession to UNCAT in 1998, was welcomed.
Gender-based violence remained a concern, highlighted by the murder of Nusrat Jahan Rafi, a female madrassah student who complained to the police about harassment by her principal according to the report.
Women habitually are harassed in public, making travelling on foot or public transport difficult, it said.
Bangladesh and Japan have signed the exchange of notes and grant agreements on the project for Human Resource Development Scholarship (JDS) worth up to JPY 446 million or around $5 million.
Ito Naoki, Ambassador of Japan to Bangladesh, Fatima Yasmin, Secretary, Economic Relations Division, Ministry of Finance and Hayakawa Yuho, Chief Representative, JICA Bangladesh office representing the respective governments on Thursday.
Since 2002 till date, 394 Bangladeshi officials have studied in Japanese universities (Masters and PhD) under the JDS scheme.
In response to the strong expectation of the government of Bangladesh to enlarge the scheme, Japan has constantly increased the number of Bangladesh JDS awardees: from 15 a year between 2010 and 2014 to 30 since 2016.
The PhD fellows have studied for the first time since the spring of 2018.
This year’s 30 JDS fellows will train themselves in different graduate schools in Japan to deepen their disciplines in the area of public administration, economic affairs, legal system and urban planning, public finance and investment policy.
It is expected that JDS fellows would play an active roles after the completion of the program in drawing up and implementing social and economic development policies in Bangladesh, said the Japanese Embassy in Dhaka.
It is also expected that JDS fellows would help two nations, Japan and Bangladesh, to further mutual understanding and deepen and broaden friendship, said the Embassy.
The government has appointed Md Zahangir Alam, currently serving as Additional Secretary of the Legal Affairs Wing of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as the next ambassador of Bangladesh to the Republic of Uzbekistan.
Ambassador-designate Alam belongs to 1986 batch of Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS) Administration cadre.
In his career, he served in various capacities in the Secretariat and in field administration. Prior to his present position in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he worked as Joint Secretary in Asia Wing of Economic Relations Division, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday.
Md Zahangir Alam obtained his Honours and Masters Degree in English from the University of Dhaka.
Japan has provided medical equipment for combating COVID-19 in Bangladesh.
The medical equipment (CT Scanner, X-ray Machine) provided through the Japanese grant aid is expected to strengthen the health system of hospitals, in particular, ICUs treating COVID-19 patients in Bangladesh, said the Japanese Embassy in Dhaka.
In Bangladesh, enhancing the capacity of medical institutions is an urgent issue in the fight against Covid-19, said the Embassy.
Ito Naoki, Ambassador of Japan to Bangladesh, and Fatima Yasmin, Secretary, Economic Relations Division, Ministry of Finance, on Thursday signed the exchange of notes on Japanese grant aid “Economic and Social Development Programme” (JPY 1.0 billion, about USD 10 million) representing the respective governments on Thursday through videoconference.
The government of Japan has so far provided approximately USD 12 million as the emergency support to tackle COVID-19 in Bangladesh through international organizations - UNICEF, IOM, UNHCR, UNDP, FAO, UNWomen and IFRC, and provided PPE to hospitals though JICA.
The Government of Japan will extend further support in Bangladesh, and continue to take a leading and active approach to overcome this global crisis, said the Embassy.
Speaker of Maltese Parliament Dr Anġlu Farrugia has appreciated Bangladesh's recent socioeconomic development and laid emphasis on strengthening ties between the two countries.
The Speaker also recalled the extraordinary role of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Dr Farrugia mentioned Bangladesh's parliamentary leadership role internationally.
The Maltese Speaker made the remarks when Bangladesh High Commissioner (Non-resident) to Malta M Jashim Uddin met him at Maltese Parliament recently, said a press release on Thursday.
They discussed ways to strengthen cooperation between the two countries including cooperation at parliament-level.
"We had a good meeting touching on different issues of cooperation particularly cooperation between two parliaments," said the High Commissioner.
He also met Maltese Foreign Secretary at Maltese Foreign Ministry at Capital Valletta.
"We had a long meeting and discussed issues of interests for Bangladesh and Malta. We also talked about continued cooperation between the two sides at international platforms," said High Commissioner Jashim.
"As the High Commissioner of Bangladesh to this small island country I had the most wonderful experience of working with colleagues at Maltese Foreign Ministry and other Ministries of Maltese government," he added.
High Commissioner Jashim also met Home Affairs, National Security and Law Enforcement Minister Dr Byron Camilleri and urged to ease visa procedures for Bangladeshi skilled, semi-skilled workers and professionals.
In reply, the Maltese Home Minister said Bangladeshis are respectful towards laws and very hardworking; and assured of prioritising the issues of visa and work.