International Human Rights Day held in Sydney

It is absolutely clear that we need to regain the universality of human rights, the indivisibility of human rights, and we need to find a new energy that motivates young people around the world.”

Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

December 10, the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted in 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).  Since then International Human Rights Day is observed internationally on 10 December every year.

South Asian Policy Initiative (SAPI) and Global Voice for Humanity (GVH) jointly organised a Round-Table Discussion on 10th December to observe Human Rights Day in Lakemba in Sydney’s west.

At the beginning of the discussion, Uncle David Bell, Aboriginal elder and indigenous community leader, acknowledged the traditional owners of the country and paid respect to their Elders past, present and emerging. He mentioned that the aboriginal people in this continent faced gross human rights violations for centuries, and it is never too late to remedy that injustice.

Dr Mahmudur Rahman, an exiled Bangladeshi journalist, a renowned academic, author and the Editor of Amar Deshnewspaper presented the main paper to begin the discussion.

“Bangladesh is currently ruled by a fascist and kelptocraticregime under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The country is no better than a personal fiefdom of the ruling party.  The government has completely choaked free media and civil society by the promulgation of draconian laws.  They do not allow an space for opposition poltical parties. The judiciary is completely dysfunctional  that blindly follows the instruction of the ruthless Prime Minister.  During the fourteen years of her authoritarian rule, the entire police force in Bangladesh has become the largest and the most barbarous criminal gang in the country. They abduct, torture, extort and kill at will. This gang of criminals have killed tens of thousands of political activits, media personnel, human rights activists, and common citizen through extrajudicial execution and enforced disappearance.  The government has created a monstrous killing machine in the name of Rapid Action Battlion (RAB) within the police force”, Said Dr. Rahman.

Dr Mahmudur Rahman provided an account of how the fascist government of Bangladesh has been carrying out extrajudicial murders, enforced disappearance, torture and mass arrest for more than a decade. He mentioned that the US Treasury Department sanctioned the Bangladeshi security force Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) last year, but the autocratic government didn’t stop their inhumane practices. He called for more western countries to impose sanctions on Bangladesh’s fascist government to force them to stop such practices.

The NSW Green Senator Hon. David Shoebridge said that “Magnitsky Act is one of the best effective tools to prevent human rights violators who oppress people in countries such as Bangladesh, gather vast wealth through corruption and finally find safe havens in Western countries. The Australian government should take serious actions against such perpetrators.

Senator David Shoebridge continued that the Australian government sanctioned Iran and Russia on the very day of this event for their human rights violation. However, according to the Senator, the Australian government needs to take more effective measures against many other autocratic regimes, including Bangladesh. He mentioned that he is committed to working towards this cause in the federal parliament in the upcoming days.

However, Zia Ahmed, the Editor in Chief of the Australasian Muslim Times, said that the sanction imposed by the Australian government is ideologically influenced. It should take more just and objective stances against other oppressive regimes.

Veronica Koman from Amnesty International said that her organisation could support if a sanction is imposed by several governments together due to its policy standards. However, it is aware of the situation in Bangladesh and many other countries and working towards stopping human rights abuse. She mentioned that the Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs announced on the same day that the government would appoint a Human Rights Ambassador, which indicates that the Australian government is working towards a positive outcome in this regard.

Several other community representatives, human rights activists and media personnel joined this conversation. Among them, James Supple from Refugee Action Coalition, Renuga Inpakumar from the Tamil community, Farid Galibfrom Refugee Advice and Casework Services, Ziad el-Daudfrom Islamic Charity Projects Association, Syed Atiq ulHassan from Tribune International, Hanif Bismi from 5News Australia, Fauk Ahmed Khan, a prominent Bangladeshi community leader, Mohammad Mosleh Uddin Arif from BNP Australia, Sohel Iqbal and Zakir Alam Lenin from Zia Forum Australia, Habibur Rahman, a human rights activist, Faruk Hossain from Care Bangladesh and Munni ChowdhuryMedha, a Bangladeshi pollical activist talked about human rights situation in various countries such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Palestine and so on. All participants agreed that the sanction is an effective tool to stop those human rights violating regimes and the western countries need to do much more than what they are doing now.

Shibly Sohail, the convenor of the South Asian Policy Initiative (SAPI), moderated this event’s discussion. In the end, Abdullah Yusuf Shamim, the Editor in Chief of SuprovatSydney, and Dr Faroque Amin, the Editor of Suprovat Sydney and the Treasurer of SAPI, thanked all the participants for their valuable contributions and demonstration of their commitment to the cause of human rights globally.

Tea and refresherment been served.

Written by Hanif Bismi

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