Here is a Press Release from the Bangladesh Foundation:

Bangladesh -The Way Forward seminar at the House of Lords

A high profile seminar on Bangladesh titled’ Bangladesh: The Way Forward’ was held today (Monday 11 June) at ‘Moses Room’ in the Houses of Lords, organised by the International Bangladesh Foundation and chaired by Lord Avebury, the Vice Chair of All Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group. The seminar was attended by dozens of MPs, MEPs, Peers, representatives of human rights organisations, academics and members of overseas diplomatic missions based in London.

Syeda Muna Tasneem, Counsellor of the Bangladesh High Commission, gave an overview of the Caretaker Government’s reform plans, and was followed by Sultan Shariff of the Awami League, Cllr. Ayesha Chowdhury for the BNP, and Cllr Ayub Korom Ali of the GanoForum.

Other main contributors were Jeremy Corbyn MP, Baroness Pola Uddin, Robert Evans MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Abbas Faiz of Amnesty International, Salim Malik of Ahmadiyya Muslim community, Professor Mustaq Khan of University of London, Dr Gareth Price of Chatham House, Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch, Dr David Lewis of London School of Economics, Rosie Cave of Safer World, Maggie Bowden of Liberation, and Prasanta Barua, who spoke for the minority groups.

Almost all the speakers were in favour of the anti graft operation run by the Caretaker Government, but concern was expressed about innocent people being caught up in the wave of arrests. There was concern that defendants were being held too long before trial, and that in some cases there was evidence of torture or ill-treatment in custody.

There was general agreement that the ultimate deadline of the end of 2008 for the elections should be maintained, and that if the roadmap to be published in July showed that an earlier date was feasible, the timetable should be accelerated.

The meeting was cautiously pleased to note that the commission to decide on land claims in the CHT was being activated, and hoped that particularly close attention would be paid to allegations about human rights violations of indigenous people. 

Lord Avebury while expressing his concern said, “I was glad to hear that the body of Cholesh Ritchil, the indigenous leader who was arrested on March 18 and died in custody the same day, has been exhumed with a view to conducting an autopsy. I had asked the Bangladesh government to conduct a full investigation into his death, and I understand that the exhumation will lead to a judicial inquiry”.
Concerns were expressed about the continued threat of terrorism, since the bomb blasts at the beginning of last month, and the accompanying threats against the Ahmadiyya Muslim community.
Speakers at the seminar also said that the Caretaker government must respect human rights, provide legal aid, and ensure no torture is taking place
Lord Avebury in his concluding remarks said, “The caretaker government has formidable tasks in their hand, which may need substantial help from the international community. The government has already asked for assistance in the immediate task of preparing the electoral register, and we look forward to hearing what response there has been, and what progress there has been on the promised roadmap. If there are other resources needed, we need to know how we can help”.