Much progress has been made towards economic development in the last year but sadly the same cannot be said about the state of human rights in the country. Throughout 2017, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, violence against women and children, and attacks on minorities remained widespread. These were the findings of the annual report released on Sunday by rights body Ain o Salish Kendra.
Although the Bangladesh government has received much admiration from the international community, and rightfully so, for giving refuge to hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas who fled violence in neighbouring Myanmar last year, its role in protecting the human rights of all in the country left much to be desired. An overall climate of fear has taken hold as mysterious disappearances of people from all walks of life made the news and abuse of Section 57 of the ICT Act to clamp down on social media led to restrictions in people's freedom of expression. Attacks on Hindu homes in Rangpur and in Adivasi villages in Langadu last year also proved that the state is not fulfilling its due role in protecting minority communities and their rights.
It is high time that the state and all relevant actors realised that any vision for the country needs to take into account the importance of valuing people's rights. As a new year begins, we would like to see the rights of all citizens take precedence over everything else. The government must adopt policies of zero tolerance towards human rights violations and see to it that justice for all is ensured. We hope with new strategies formulated by law enforcement agencies, this year will paint a brighter picture where the protection of human rights is a reality rather than a far-fetched dream.