A Roundtable Discussion on Promoting Human Rights Commemorating International Human Rights Day on December 10, 2022

Location: Sydney, Australia

Date: December 10, 2022



The Australian government should take serious action against state violators of human rights including Bangladesh, said Senator David Shoebridge and other speakers during a Round-Table Discussion in Sydney organised on Human Rights Day on Saturday 10 December 2022.

The event jointly organised by South Asian Policy Initiative (SAPI) and Global Voice for Humanity (GVH) was held at Lakemba Sports Club where the keynote paper was presented by Dr Mahmudur Rahman, an exiled Bangladeshi journalist, academic, author and the Editor of Amar Desh newspaper.

It was pointed out that sanctions under the Magnitsky Act is one of the best effective tools to prevent human rights violators who oppress people in countries such as Bangladesh, gather vast wealth through corruption and finally find safe havens in Western countries.

At the commencement of the round table discussion, Uncle David Bell, Aboriginal elder and indigenous community leader provided Welcome to the Country, paid respect to the indigenous people of this land and their elders past, present and emerging.

He mentioned that the aboriginal people in this continent faced gross human rights violations for centuries, and it is never too late to remedy that injustice.

In his paper titled “Calling for sanction against human rights abusers”, Dr Mahmudur Rahman provided an account of how the fascist government of Bangladesh has been carrying out extrajudicial murders, enforced disappearance, torture and mass arrest for more than a decade.

He mentioned that the US Treasury Department sanctioned the Bangladeshi security force Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) last year, but the autocratic government didn’t stop their inhumane practices.

Dr Rahman called for more Western countries to impose sanctions on Bangladesh’s authoritarian government to force them to stop such practices.

Senator David Shoebridge said that while the Australian government has imposed sanctions on officials in Iran and Russia on the very day of this event for their human rights violations it needs to take more effective measures against many other autocratic regimes, including Bangladesh.

He mentioned that he is committed to working towards this cause in the federal parliament in the upcoming days.

Zia Ahmad, Editor-in Chief of the Australasian Muslim Times AMUST, said that the sanction imposed by the Australian government under the Magnitsky Act so far against Russian and Iranian officials are ideologically motivated and should be extended to other oppressive regimes.

He specifically called out for sanctions against violators of human rights of Palestinians, Kashmiris and Indian minorities as well as those in Bangladesh under the dictatorial Hasina government.

Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman from Asian Human Rights Commission stated that the worst outcome of human rights abuse in Bangladesh is the denial of justice for the people.

He said that the same RAB sanctioned by the US Treasury Department was trained by the UK security forces as recently as in October 2022, which is a betrayal by the British government of its taxpaying citizens.

Veronica Koman from Amnesty International said that her organisation could only support sanctions regimes they are imposed by several governments together due to Amnesty policy standards. However, Amnesty is aware of the situation in Bangladesh and many other countries and working towards stopping human rights abuses.

She mentioned that the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Penny Wong has announced on the same day that the government would appoint a Human Rights Ambassador, which indicates that the Australian government is working towards a positive outcome in this regard.

Several other community representatives, human rights activists and media personnel joined the round table conversation. Among them, James Supple from Refugee Action Coalition, Renuga Inpakumar from the Tamil community, Farid Galib from Refugee Advice and Casework Services, Ziad el-Daud from Islamic Charity Projects Association, Syed Atiq ul Hassan from Tribune International, Hanif Bismi from 5News Australia, Faruk Ahmed Khan, a prominent Bangladeshi community leader, Mohammad Mosleh Uddin Arif from BNP Australia, Sohel Iqbal and Zakir Alam Lenin from Zia Forum Australia, Habibur Rahman, a human rights activist, Faruk Hossain from Care Bangladesh and Munni Chowdhury Medha, a Bangladeshi pollical activist talked about human rights situation in various countries such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Palestine and so on.

All participants agreed that sanctions against regimes violating human rights are an effective tool to stop them and the Western countries need to do much more than what they are doing now.

Rahat Shantonu, a popular singer from Bangladesh, sang a song describing the vast protests in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, organised by the BNP, the largest democratic party in the country.

Shibly Sohail, an academic from Charles Sturt University and the convenor of the South Asian Policy Initiative (SAPI) moderated the round table discussion in a most competent manner.

Mr Abdullah Yusuf Shamim, Editor-in-Chief and Dr Faroque Amin, Editor of Suprovat Sydney and the Treasurer of SAPI, thanked all the participants for their valuable contributions and demonstration of their commitment to the cause of protection of human rights globally.

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