UN rights chief meets Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

Dhaka, Aug 16 (EFE)- United Nations rights chief Michelle Bachelet toured Rohingya camps and met refugees in Bangladesh on Tuesday.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is on her first visit to Bangladesh.

The former Chilean president arrived in the country on Sunday for a four-day trip to meet government officials and human rights activists.

“The UN High Commissioner visited camps today. She held meeting with Rohingyas but we are now aware of what they discussed,” Bangladesh’s deputy refugee relief and repatriation commissioner Shamsud Douza told EFE.

On the first day of her visit, she met Bangladesh’s foreign, home, law, and education ministers.

“During the meetings, Bangladesh ministers highlighted the government’s sincere efforts to protect and promote human rights of the people,” Bangladesh foreign ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

“Bachelet, appreciating Bangladesh’s humanitarian gesture towards the Rohingyas, underscored the need for their education through the learning centers in the camps,” the statement said.

Quoting ministers, local media reported Bachelet raised questions about enforced disappearances, shrinking press freedom, abuse of the Digital Security Act, and rights of religious and ethnic minorities.

Bachelet also met Bangladesh’s human rights activists and NGOs during the second day of her visit.

She will meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday before wrapping her visit.

Nearly 925,000 Rohingya refugees live in Bangladesh after they fled Myanmar, especially since the start of the military crackdown in 2017, which the UN described as ethnic cleansing and possible genocide.

Bachelet’s visit came as an opportunity for human rights defenders to shed light on alleged human rights abuse in Bangladesh.

Ahead of her visit, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and eight other international organizations urged Bachelet to call for an “immediate end to serious abuses including extrajudicial killings, torture, and enforced disappearances.”

HRW has said security forces forcibly disappeared nearly 600 people since Prime Minister Hasina took office in 2009.

While some victims have been released or produced in court after weeks or months of secret detention, others became victims of extrajudicial killings, passed off as deaths during gunfights. Scores are still missing.

Many victims were critics of the ruling Awami League government.

The Bangladesh government consistently denied that the security forces committed enforced disappearances.

The United States has imposed sanctions on the country’s elite security force, Rapid Action Battalion, and seven of its current and former officials, including police chief Benazir Ahmed for alleged human rights abuses. EFE


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