The United Kingdom has said they will continue to stress long-term importance to Bangladesh’s development of “free, fair, inclusive and peaceful” elections, says a new report.
In its Bangladesh chapter of the 2017 Foreign & Commonwealth Office report on ‘Human Rights and Democracy’ published on Monday, the UK said they will continue to engage closely with Bangladesh on the Rohingya issue.
The UK government praised the Bangladeshi government and people for having accepted and assisted over 700,000 Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar from August 2017 onwards.
It also welcomed repeated government assurances that any returns of Rohingya refugees would be voluntary, safe, well-informed and dignified one.
The UK took an international lead in supporting the refugees and in mobilising international attention to the situation in Rakhine State.
Conditions in Rohingya refugee camps raised particular risks of violence against women, many of whom had already suffered appalling violence in Rakhine State, says the report.
Working with UN and other agencies, the UK ensured the humanitarian response included help and support for the survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.
It says they will support progress towards gender equality, including on girls’ education, where a focus will be on promoting equity in access, retention and learning outcomes for the most marginalised girls; combating modern slavery; pressing the authorities on enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions.
The UK will continue to engage closely with Bangladesh to support freedom of expression and other democratic freedoms.
The report observed that the human rights situation in Bangladesh saw no substantive improvement in 2017.
Credible reports of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and torture by government agencies continued, as did government pressure on opposition parties, civil society and the media, claimed the report.
The report observes that the human rights situation in Myanmar deteriorated sharply in 2017, with the crisis in Rakhine dominating the second half of the year.
The UK continued to have serious concerns about human rights, including ethnic cleansing, restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, and a lack of accountability for human rights violations and abuses, according to the report.
Looking ahead to 2018, the report says the UK stands ready to help the government of Myanmar implement the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.
“The UK also welcomes the establishment of an international advisory board. Any returns of refugees to Burma (Myanmar) must be safe, voluntary and dignified and have independent monitoring by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees,” said the report.
Humanitarian support to refugees in Bangladesh, through DFID, totalled £59 million in 2017, said the report.
“In 2018, we’ll continue funding important projects on freedom of expression and preventing sexual violence, while expanding our work to help tackle hate speech and other underlying drivers of inter-communal tensions,” says the report.