Protecting Freedom of Expression in Bangladesh

Following is the English translation of the statement made by academics, writers, women’s rights, human rights and cultural activists, including freedom fighters, on December 18, 2014 regarding the conviction and sentencing of British journalist David Bergman by the International Crimes Tribunal-2, in Dhaka. The statement was published in Prothom Alo, the largest Bangla daily, the next day. One of the statement makers, Khushi Kabir, withdrew her name from the statement the following day.

 

On January 14, 2015, the Tribunal served notice on the 49 statement makers asking them to explain their statement: “Prima facie it appears that the core content of the ‘statement’ questions ‘transparency and openness’ of the judicial proceedings before the tribunal and also justification of the order sentencing a journalist [Bergman] for the act of scandalising the tribunal constituting the offence of contempt.”

 

Over the next two months, 26 statement makers tendered in writing their “unconditional apology” before the Tribunal. These were accepted as they “upgraded the majesty of the Tribunal” (Order No 11, dated 18.03.2015), and the 26 were exonerated from further proceedings.

 

The remaining 23, who had expressed their “regret” for any inadvertent impression the Tribunal may have received about it’s “authority and institutional dignity” having been belittled, have failed to satisfy the Tribunal as their explanation lacks “true remorse and repentance.” And, in the eyes of the Tribunal, they have, on the contrary, sought to “defend” their statement by citing the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution of Bangladesh.

The Tribunal has now decided (Order No. 12, dated 1.04.2015) to initiate contempt proceedings against Masud Khan (consultant), Afsan Chowdhury (liberation war researcher, university teacher), Ziaur Rahman (lawyer), Hana Shams Ahmed (writer, rights activist), professor Anu Muhammad (university teacher), Anusheh Anadil (singer, rights activist), Muktasree Chakma Sathi (rights activist), Lubna Marium (cultural activist, freedom fighter), Farida Akhter (women’s rights activist), Shireen Huq (women’s rights activist), Dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury (public health activist, freedom fighter), Ali Ahmed Ziauddin (freedom fighter), Rahnuma Ahmed (writer), Dr. Shahidul Alam (photographer), Dr. C. R. Abrar (university teacher), Dr. Bina D’ Costa (peace and conflict analyst), Mahmud Rahman (writer), Dr. Zarina Nahar Kabir (university teacher), Leesa Gazi (cultural activist), Shabnam Nadiya (writer), Nasrin Siraj Annie (anthropologist and film-maker, Tibra Ali (physicist), and Dr. Delwar Hussain (anthropologist).

If found guilty they face a fine or imprisonment of up to 1 year.

Continue reading “Protecting Freedom of Expression in Bangladesh”

The Current State of Health Care in this Country

By Arjun Janah

I have learned, from experience with my aged parents and my younger sister-in-law, that elementary services, or even basic coverage, can be denied on the flimsiest of grounds.? My own experience with physicians and hospitals has been that I normally get at most 15 minutes with the first, and less than a day to recover after surgeries with the second, before being shown the door.? There is also no followup.

It is true that, given a reasonable plan (obtained either by means of collective bargaining if one is fortunate enough to belong to a large organization and so paying group-rates, or else by paying high individual-rate premiums if one is lucky enough to be affluent) expensive tests and high-tech procedures may be ordered, that often involve tens of thousands of dollars of charges.? But these seem to be driven more by considerations of profits than by true concern for the long-term well-being of the patients. Less profitable and less drastic procedures, that may be very simple, on the one hand, or may involve sizing up the whole individual and his/her history and circumstances, and utilizing lifestyle changes and long-term remedial services on the other, are simply not part of the health-care equation.? Though they might drastically reduce health care costs, while improving long-term outcomes, they yield less profit, and might even make much of the current health-care behemoth redundant.

A tremendous amount of effort goes into paperwork — leaving n urses, for example, relegating basic patient-care duties to nurses’ aides. Surgeons are usually unavailable after an operation, despite all that may go wrong during recovery. Internists often have little or no coordination with specialists, to whom the whole picture of the patient’s health is of little or no interest.

Doctors themselves run up huge debts in medical school, and are mercilessly driven as interns, where they often have shifts that run for days with little or no sleep, while yet being responsible for most of whatever little routine medical attention a ward patient receives. They then scramble to set up a practice, preferably in a lucrative surgical specialty, so as to pay off the debt, and then often endeavor to stay as far away from hospital wards and routine patient care as they can get.

Surgeons are willing to spend time with a patient prior to highly expensive (and often unnecessary, though profitable) surgeries, but usually have no time for them after-wards.? Other physicians? are forced to cram in as many patients as possible per day, either to meet their basic expenses and their chosen lifestyles, or else to satisfy HMO’s and hospitals for whom they work. Fifteen minutes has become the standard maximum per patient, including time for basic physican’s paperwork. Many spend far less time.? Basic examination tasks, once performed by physicians, are increasingly assigned to physicians’ assistants, nurses, medical assistants or others.? Those who buck this trend find them selves in trouble, either financially or with their overseers — often people who have no medical background.

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On Forced Marriage, and Insourced Torture

Rahman?s case is one of the latest in a growing number of cases ? 29, at last count ? in which British intelligence services have been accused of colluding in the torture of British nationals and residents: Rangzieb Ahmed, Salahuddin Amin, Zeeshan Siddiqui, Rashid Rauf by the ISI, Binyam Mohamed in Morocco, Alam Ghafoor in Dubai, and Azhar Khan in Egypt. Rahman?s case provides the clearest indication so far, of torture outsourced

The Loving Face of British Imperialism

rahnuma ahmed

…the [Nigerian] nationalist leader Nnamdi Azikiwe urged Africans and other colonized peoples to prepare their own blueprint of rights themselves instead of relying on those who are too busy preparing their own.
— Bonny Ibhawoh, Imperialism and Human Rights, p. 155.
Forced marriage, says a British High Commission press release, is a crime (British High Commission, ?The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office Forced Marriage Unit Launches National Publicity Campaign on Forced Marriage,? Dhaka, 28 March 2006. The link, for unknown reasons, has gone dead). As opposed to arranged marriages, forced marriages — by dint of not being based on consent — are a form of domestic violence and human rights abuse.
To increase awareness, both in Britain and abroad, the British home ministry (HO), and the foreign ministry (FCO), jointly formed a Forced Marriage Unit in January 2005. The unit was tasked with launching a publicity campaign: radio and press adverts, TV fillers and poster campaigns, and providing information. To those at risk, those affected, and those who are survivors.
The British government, said the state minister for home, Baroness Scotland QC, is determined to protect young people’s “right to choose” their spouses. A determination backed by the state minister for foreign office Lord Triesman’s assurance that “help is available” for its victims. Continue reading “On Forced Marriage, and Insourced Torture”