Bangladesh

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th July 2016.

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Photo of Andrew Stephenson Andrew Stephenson Conservative, Pendle 12:00 am, 12th July 2016

What steps he is taking to support political liberty, freedom of expression and human rights in Bangladesh.

Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Our condolences go to the victims and the families of those involved in the horrific and cowardly terrorist attack in Dhaka on 1 July. Where credible allegations of human rights abuses exist, we raise them with the Bangladesh Government. Bangladesh is named as one of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s 30 human rights priority countries. The British Government also fund a number of programmes that support civil society in Bangladesh.

Photo of Andrew Stephenson Andrew Stephenson Conservative, Pendle

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Supporters of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist party have told me that hundreds of its party workers have now disappeared, and Amnesty International referred to at least 43 enforced disappearances in its latest international report. Whatever the true number, does he agree that the political situation in Bangladesh is now extremely serious and it is vital that political rights are protected?

Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Yes, I agree, and I condemn all forms of violence and excessive use of force. Equally, we made it clear in public and in private that justice must be done in a manner that fully respects the international human rights standards to which Bangladesh has signed up.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Labour, Denton and Reddish

Human Rights Watch identified Bangladesh as having the highest rate of child marriage. This is a fundamental breach of human rights, particularly for those girls who are forced into marriages at such an early age. What are the Government doing to make their views known to the Bangladesh Government, and through the Commonwealth and other organisations, that such practice is not acceptable?

Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Clearly, it is not acceptable, and we continue to have a robust dialogue with the Bangladesh Government. We are also a significant aid donor working on some of these projects in that country.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

Hindu priests have been brutally murdered and other religious minorities savaged. What actions has my right hon. Friend taken to inform the Bangladeshi Government that that is completely unacceptable and that they have to face up to their responsibilities?

Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Indeed. I can only repeat what I have just said. We have robust discussions with the Government of Bangladesh. We are extremely concerned about the situation in that country, not least because of its connections with Daesh and other organisations and its basic human rights as well.

Photo of Fabian Hamilton Fabian Hamilton Labour, Leeds North East

What specific representations has the Minister made to the Government of Sheikh Hasina following the brutal murders in the diplomatic enclave of Gulshan in Dhaka? The area should have been very secure, and yet those murderers and terrorists were allowed in to murder 20 people on 1 July.

Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

The Prime Minister wrote to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on 2 July to extend his condolences. I spoke to Foreign Minister Ali on 5 July to express my condemnation of this senseless act of horror.