USCIRF Commended for Policy Focus on Bangladesh

October 18, 2006

Source: Hindu American Foundation

The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) affirmed its focus on the grave human rights abuses faced by adherents of non-Islamic religions in Bangladesh last week in yet another forum. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), created by the federal government to provide policy recommendations to the U.S. State Department and White House on global human rights issues, invited HAF to be a respondent at their forum on the upcoming Bangladesh elections. The forum was held at the Gold Room in the Rayburn House Office Building on October 17 in Washington, D.C.

Prior to the discussions at the forum, the USCIRF had released a policy brief on Bangladesh.

That policy brief, ahead of the January 2007 General Elections set in Bangladesh, was welcomed publicly by HAF as it reached similar conclusions to those found in the foundation’s annual Hindu human rights report. The USCIRF recommended that the Bangladesh government take “urgent measures to prevent anti-minority violence in the upcoming elections”; “urgent measures to protect those threatened by religious extremism”; “long term measures to protect universal human rights”; and, that the U.S. provide “assistance to promote human rights, including freedom of religion or belief” in Bangladesh.

"We are pleased to see the Commission taking a proactive role in bringing to attention and outlining recommendations in light of Bangladesh's upcoming elections,” said Ishani Chowdhury, Executive Director of HAF. “As our annual Hindu Human Rights report notes, the low scale religious cleansing of the already shrinking minority Hindu population in Bangladesh, is of grave concern to not only the Hindu American Foundation, but also to those who share the ethos of pluralism and tolerance."

At the forum, among other issues raised, HAF urged that international monitoring of upcoming elections in Bangladesh must be implemented, that minority candidates must be nominated by political parties, that attacks on Hindu temples and properties must cease immediately and that a human rights commission be established in Bangladesh to ensure due process and minority rights and representation. Many of these recommendations were corroborated by the Chair of the Forum, Commissioner Felice Gaer, her fellow USCIRF commissioners Preeta Bansal and Michael Cromartie, who all demanded international monitoring of the January 2007 elections, and safety and security for the minority population.