UN Covid-19 Situation Report highlights human rights concerns in Bangladesh, quotes report describing civic space as “repressed”, critics “suppressed”


The United Nations Bangladesh produces a Situation Report which is published intermittently. The most recent, “Covid-19 SitRep #10” was published on July 2nd and we published what it said in its final section about human rights in a part titled, “Leaving No One Behind through respect for human rights”

“Despite the order from the Government for all hospital authorities to ensure treatment for all patients, denial of healthcare, substandard quality and accessibility of services combined with stigmatization and discrimination continue to be reported as patients, including those with non-COVID-19 symptoms, claim to be refused treatment, some with deadly consequences. Hospitals are reporting lack of resources and manpower to treat increasing numbers. People have been seen waiting in queues, and one person died on the pavement despite resuscitation attempts by a doctor, while awaiting admission. Another patient reportedly committed suicide after fleeing from a hospital where he was undergoing treatment. It was reported that a clinic owner was beaten to death on 17 June after the public accused him of wrong treatment. Police have been arresting people providing fake negative certificates. Professional associations have sought to secure for themselves the use of specific private hospitals, which may leave overburdened and under equipped public hospitals to look after the masses and has led to suggestions that this might be discriminatory.

Expressing concern about the state of freedom of speech in the country, the organization Article 19 said a total of 89 cases were lodged against 173 people under the Digital Security Act from March until 22 June. People irrespective of age and profession have been sued and arrested under the DSA, with many plaintiffs apparently being supporters of the ruling party. The renowned CIVICUS Monitor, which has classified civic space in the country as “repressed”, warned that journalists face criminalization while critics are suppressed. A photojournalist of UNB stated that he was obstructed while taking photos of patients’ sufferings. A university teachers association and student organizations on 22 June demanded repealing the Digital Security Act. A 15 year-old ninth grader was arrested on 20 June for allegedly defaming the Prime Minister in a Facebook post, which may put him at heightened risk of contracting COVID-19. When UNICEF welcomed the release of children from detention, it noted that juvenile detention centers are crowded beyond capacity and prone to unhygienic conditions.

The bleak situation of urban dwellers of informal settlements has been highlighted in news reports, indicating that the socio-economic impact has been severe, with many of them caught in a cycle of poverty due to COVID-19, and calling for social safety net programmes and loan repayments to be deferred. Other newspaper reports state that the health impact of the disease on this low income situation has been mild. BRAC noted low numbers of slum dwellers going to hospitals or reporting. BRAC’s informal survey through its community organizers found 290 patients with COVID-19 like symptoms in around 300 slums but cautioned formal studies were required to confirm the situation.” (emphasis added)


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Published both in Bengali and English, Netra News is an independent, non-partisan and non-profit platform of reportage, analysis and debate on Bangladeshi politics, society and culture. It has been set up to pursue public interest journalism. Our principal audience is expected to be the Bangladeshi public, within the country and in the diaspora, but we also aim to be an important source of information and analysis for a wider international audience. The editorial office of Netra News is located in the Swedish city of Malmö, and it is registered as an online publication with the Swedish Press and Broadcasting Authority. Netra News is a project of Bangladesh Media Network, which is overseen by an organisational board: Kerstin Brunnberg (journalist, Sweden), president Bina D’Costa (academic, Australia), secretary Dan Morrison (journalist, United States), treasurer Netra News is currently supported by a grant from the National Endowment for Democracy. Responsible publisher (ansvarig utgivare) & Editor-in-Chief: Tasneem Khalil BMN/Netra Media Evolution City, Stora Varvsgatan 6A 211 19 Malmö, Sweden