Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

The EU must not lose Bangladesh to anarchy and military dictatorship

10th September 2007

Brussels, 10th September -- Following the August student demonstrations, Charles Tannock MEP, Conservative Foreign Affairs Spokesman in the European Parliament, has called for a three point plan to restore full secular democracy in Bangladesh.

Charles said: "The EU must be vigilant over Bangladesh, aware that South Asia is a political tinderbox. Ignoring a democratic death-by-a-thousand-cuts is not a sensible option given the Islamist threat which lies in wait in a vast and strategic nation of 150 million.

"I call for:

1. The continuation of impartial investigations into the violent threats received by journalists and human rights defenders and attacks carried out against them;

2. The release of university academics who were recently engaging in peaceful protests but who remain in prison; the release from prison of the 3 former Prime Ministers on bail to prepare their defence and the right for EU observers to attend their trials to ensure due process

3. The confirmation that democratic elections will be held in 2008 or sooner if at all possible which was given to the EU and USA. The return to Bangladesh of the EU funded long term election observation mission as soon as possible to monitor progress.

"Western aid donors are watching Bangladesh carefully given concerns about human rights deterioration in the last few years together with increasing Islamist radicalisation of its society and a departure from its original course of secular multiparty democracy - a model we in the EU should strongly continue support."


However, the election time scale appears very long and there are suspicions that the military, whose profile politically has recently risen are keen to radically and deliberately alter the political complexion of the country by removing from circulation two warring protagonists, ex-Prime Ministers Sheik Hasina and Khaleda Zia.

Charles added: "It is difficult to understand why they are not released on bail pending trial and furthermore why the initial arrests were so melodramatic and lacking in due process under emergency powers which this resolution rightly calls for to be lifted as well as calling for EU diplomatic observers to be present at their trials."