Prime Minister Parliament House The Hon Anthony Albanese MP CANBERRA ACT 2600 By email: A.Albanese MP@aph.gov.au 4 October 2023 Dear Prime Minister, Re: Bangladesh Elections We, the undersigned MPs, are writing to express our concerns about the ongoing human rights violations in Bangladesh and their potential impact on the upcoming national election, We believe
Prime Minister Parliament House
The Hon Anthony Albanese MP CANBERRA ACT 2600 By email: A.Albanese MP@aph.gov.au
4 October 2023
Dear Prime Minister,
Re: Bangladesh Elections
We, the undersigned MPs, are writing to express our concerns about the ongoing human rights violations in Bangladesh and their potential impact on the upcoming national election, We believe that it is crucial for the election to be conducted in a free, fair, peaceful, inclusive and participatory manner.
As a result, we are writing to you after the United States government’s recent announcement regarding a new visa policy in support of Bangladesh’s effort to conduct a democratic election. The policy restricts visas for Bangladeshi individuals suspected of undermining the election process, including government officials, political party members, law enforcement, judiciary, and security services.
We consider any actions that undermine the democratic election process, such as vote rigging, voter intimidation, or measures to prevent political parties, voters, civil society, or the media from disseminating their views, to be worrying. It is vital that our government follows suit with similar policies, whether through Magnitzky sanctions or otherwise, to ensure that individuals responsible for undermining the democratic process in Bangladesh cannot enter Australia.
We are alarmed by the allegations of abuse of power by senior members of the ruling party and the shocking human rights violations suffered by ordinary citizens, community activists, union leaders, and opposition political party members. These crimes have been documented by Amnesty International, and by the US Department of State in its report on Bangladesh.
The reports of torture linked to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed’s government, particularly by the Rapid Action Battalion, which numerous internationally reputed NGOs have characterised as a government “death squad”, are deeply concerning. Two informers and former members of RAB confessed that the incidents of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances could not be possible without the approval of the Home Minister and Prime Minister have only added to our concern.
We urge the government to take appropriate steps to guarantee that the upcoming election meets international standards for free, fair, peaceful, inclusive and participatory elections. We urge you to make representations to the Bangladesh High Commissioner in this regard.
To ensure this, we believe The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner’s Human Rights Standards on Elections should be implemented and followed. The past two national elections in 2014 and 2018 were fraught with controversies and irregularities, including intimidation, and violence against opposition political parties, civil society, and the media. As reported by international human rights organisations, there have been extra-judicial killings, abductions, and torture inflicted upon ordinary citizens, community activists, union leaders, and opposition political party members.
The general election is expected to be held at the end of 2023 or beginning of 2024. We urge the government to develop a constructive relationship with the Bangladesh government representatives before the election to prevent what was witnessed in the 2014 and 2018 elections. To that end we are seeking that the Australian government:
- Clearly express to the Bangladesh government Australia’s expectation that the election will be held in accordance with the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner’s Human Rights Standards on Elections
Commit to working with the Bangladesh government and the UN and international community to help supervise and conduct free and fair elections in Bangladesh, including ensuring unfettered access during the election period to independent electoral observers, and
- Publicly place on notice the Bangladesh government that should any senior officials endorse,
promote or participate in serious breaches of democratic electoral standards, that they will be
considered by Australia for targeted Magnitsky sanctions.
As a government committed to promoting the rule of law and human rights through diplomacy, we hope that you will give this correspondence serious attention, and we look forward to hearing from you on the matters we have raised.
The undersigned MPs
Senator David Shoebridge Senator Jordon Steele-John
Adam Bandt MP Senator Nick McKim Elizabeth Watson-Brown MP Senator Mehreen Faruqi Senator Dorinda Cox Senator Sarah Hanson-Young
Senator Larissa Waters
Senator Janet Rice Senator Barbara Pocock
Stephen Bates MP
Senator Peter Whish-Wilson
Senator Penny Allman-Payne Max Chandler-Mather MP