Stablishment of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRCB)
The National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh was reconstituted in 2009 as a national advocacy institution for human rights promotion and protection. It is committed to the accomplishment of human rights in a broader sense, including dignity, worth and freedom of every human being, as enshrined in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and different international human rights conventions and treaties to which Bangladesh is a signatory.
The purpose of establishing such splendid institution is to contribute to the embodiment of human dignity and integrity as well as to the safeguard of the basic order of democracy so that inalienable fundamental human rights of all individuals are protected and the standards of human rights are improved in the country.
Established by the National Human Rights Commission Act, 2009 in consonance with Bangladesh’s commitment to international human rights law, the Commission serves as a mechanism for the enrichment of the realization of human rights. Its journey is aimed at creating a culture of human rights through public enlightenment on diverse human rights issues so that the people of the country can contribute to larger peace and security keeping in pace with the ‘progressive aspirations of human kind.’
An effort to establish a human rights overseer in Bangladesh was initiated in the late nineties. Successive governments tried to launch such a body at the urge of national and international agencies.
The public desire to establish such an institution got momentum in 2007. As a result, National Human Rights Commission Ordinance 2007 was promulgated by the Honorable President of Bangladesh with effect from 1 September 2008. The Commission was constituted through appointment of one Chairman and two other members on 1 December 2008.
In the process, the National Human Rights Commission Act 2009 was passed by the parliament on 14 July 2009 and a retrospective operation of the Act was given from 1 September 2008.
Present Chairman Dr. Kamal Uddin Ahmed, (Former Secretary) has been leading National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Bangladesh since December 08, 2022. Prior to this role, He served as Full-Time Member of National Human Rights Commission from 22 September 2019 to 23 September 2022 with pay and privilege of a Justice of the High court Division of Bangladesh Supreme Court. He was the Chairman of Bangladesh Joint Boundary Working Group (JBWG) and had effective negotiations with Indian counterpart which ultimately led to the formulation of a Protocol on historical Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) (Mujib-Indira Chukti) and execution of an epoch-making pacific settlement of land boundary disputes between Bangladesh and India. He discharged mentionable contributions in the attainment of Human Rights through maintenance of law and order; formulation of international documents; execution of successful negotiations, especially in the field of human trafficking, drug trafficking, money laundering and terrorist financing etc.
The composition of the human rights commission is considered basic for its credulity and effective functioning. The Bangladesh NHRC is consisted of a Chairman and 6 other members having proven expertise, interest in human rights and diverse backgrounds in accordance with the ‘Paris Principles 1991’. The Chairman and one Member of the Commission serves the Commission on a full-time basis and other Members are honorary. Representations from the women and ethnic groups are mandatory. In the present Commission, out of six there are three female members and two members representing the ethnic communities
Appointment, Tenure and Removal
Upon the recommendation of a high-ranked Selection Committee, consisting of seven members under the Chairmanship of the honorable Speaker of the Parliament, the President of Bangladesh appoints the Chairman and Members of the Commission.
The age range of the Chairman and other members is: 35 to 70 years
Persons having remarkable contribution and recognized competence in the field of legal or judicial function, human rights, education, social service or human development are considered for the membership of the Commission.
The Chairman and Members of the Commission are appointed for three years from the date he/she enters upon the office and eligible to be re-appointed but not more than twice.
The Chairman or any Member of the Commission may, before completion of his/her tenure, resign his/her office by writing under his/her hand addressed to the President.
In case of any vacancy in the office of the Chairman or if the Chairman is unable to discharge the function of his office on account of absence, illness or any other reason, the Permanent Member acts as the Chairman until a newly appointed Chairman holds office or until the Chairman resumes the function of his office, as the case may be.
The Chairman or members of the Commission is not removable from the office save in like manner as a Judge of the Supreme Court. They can only be removed by the President on the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council (consisting of the Chief Justice of Bangladesh and two other next senior Judges of the Appellate Division) if the Council so recommends after inquiry on alleged ‘physical or mental incapacity’ or ‘gross misconduct’ of the Chairman or Member. However, if the Chairman or any Member becomes adjudged insolvent, engages in any other profitable job (except the honorary member), is declared person of unsound mind, or convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude, the President can remove the Chairman or that member.
Apart from entertaining complaints the NHRC can exercise the power suo motu.
- The NHRC can ask for report from the Disciplinary Forces or the Law Enforcing Agencies or any of its members on the allegation of human rights violation.
- The NHRC can visit any jail or correctional centers, custody and such other places and make recommendation to the government thereon for the development of those places and conditions.
- The Commission can inquire and report a matter being referenced by the Supreme Court of Bangladesh on a writ petition heard by it.
- The Commission enjoys the power of a civil court in case of any inquiry or investigation.
- The Commission is empowered to appoint mediators according to established rules to dispose of a dispute relating to violation of human rights.
- In case of non-compliance of the reports and recommendations the Commission can bring the matter to the notice of the President who shall cause it to be laid before parliament.
- The Commission can ask for information from governmental authorities on any alleged violation of human rights and the government is required to give the information. In case of failure to provide information the Commission can start to work at its own initiative.
- Even the Commission itself can lodge application to the High Court Division if the case fits with the conditions of filing writ petitions under the constitution.
- Apart from suggesting legal remedy, the commission is endowed with the power to recommend the government to provide temporary grant to the aggrieved person or his family.
- The commission can publish the inquiry report fully or partially at its own satisfaction.
- The witnesses before the Commission are protected for their deposition.
The NHRC follows the comprehensive mandate outlined in the National Human Rights Commission Act, 2009. The cruxes of the functions of the Commission are: investigation and inquiry, recommendation, legal aid and human rights advocacy, research and training on human rights laws, norms and practices. To elaborate, in order to promote and protect human rights the Commission performs the following functions:
- Developing human rights policies through conducting human rights research and issuing legal and administrative policy recommendations;
- Analyzing laws, policies and practices from a human rights perspective;
- Investigating human rights violation cases and providing access to justice;
- Promoting human rights education and raising public awareness about perception of human rights;
- Promoting, monitoring and comparing the national standard and implementation of international human rights treaties;
- Co-operating with government agencies, civil society organizations, UN human rights bodies and national human rights institutions;
- Settlement of complaints having the tendency of violation of human rights through mediation, providing legal aid if possible to the aggrieved party;
- Lodging or help to lodge petitions in the apex court;
- Sensitizing law enforcing agencies through human rights training;
Other matters deemed necessary to protect and promote human rights.
Mandate of the NHRC
The mandate of the NHRC necessarily emanates from the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, the Human Rights Commission Act and the international human rights instruments to which Bangladesh is a party. As per the Constitution the fundamental objective of the state is to establish an egalitarian society where equality and social justice would be guaranteed for all citizens. It envisages that Bangladesh shall be a democracy where fundamental human rights and worth of human persons of all would be ensured. In line with these objectives, the National Human Rights Commission Act in its preamble [read with section 2(f)] has reflected that the National Human Rights Commission is being established in order to protect, promote and foster human rights as envisaged in the Bangladesh constitution and international instruments. The key mandates can be summed up as follows:
It is a statutory independent institution established by an Act of Parliament.
NHRC is committed to provide independent views on issues within the parlance of the Constitution or prevailing law for the time being in force for the protection of human rights.
The Commission works independently. It does not require prior approval of the government to spend its budgetary allocation. The budget of the Commission comes from annual grant of Government of Bangladesh or local authority. The account of the Commission is to be audited by the Auditor and Comptroller General of Bangladesh.
Authority to mediate any complaint if feasible and appropriate.
Authority to revisit existing laws of the land and recommend amending any discrepancy for better and more effective protection and promotion of human rights.