Depriving individuals, through banning any political party to which they may belong to, the State of Bangladesh would effectively be in violation of its international obligations.
Some extreme left oriented political parties and their affiliated professional and cultural organisations have long been demanding for banning the Bangladesh Jammat-e Islami (BJI). This is not their new demand. However, they have recently intensified their demand which most of the Bangladeshi media appears to be proactive in highlighting. Jatiya Somajtantrik Dal (JSD), Bangladesh Workers Party (BWP) and Bangladesh Communist Party (BCP) are vocal on this point. Some ministers of the current government seem to be echoing this demand, thought the Prime Minister, in a recent cabinet meeting, said that the government had not decided to ban the BJI yet and accordingly she advised the ministers not to make any comment in this matter. I am not a member of the BJI nor am I advocating for them. Personally, I am opposed to banning any political party, no matter what it is. Banning a political party, because one does not like it or his party does not like it or the government does not like, is totally against the democratic norms and principles. Political parties, no matter how extreme or odd its’ ideologies are, must be dealt with by the law and true democracy.
Political rights are part of civil liberties. Civil liberties are regarded by Dworkin, one of the noted political philosophers, in his book named ‘Taking Right Seriously,’ as ‘internally connected with fundamental concepts of human dignity and the rights of each person to equal respect and concern.’ Constitutionally every citizen of Bangladesh has right to form associations or union and this is guaranteed by Article 38 of the Constitution. Freedom of thought and conscious and of speech is guaranteed by Article 39 of the Constitution. Article 37 ensures the right to assemble and to participate in public meetings. Freedom of movement throughout Bangladesh is guaranteed by Article 36 and freedom of religion is ensured by Article 41. Each and every citizen of the country has the above fundamental and constitutional rights subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law. Therefore, banning any political party would effectively mean depriving individuals of their natural and constitutional rights and liberties.
Furthermore, Bangladesh is a State party (signatory) to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the two most important international documents. Article 20 of the UDHR says “(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, (2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association,” whereas, Article 21 of the ICCPR says “The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” Article 19 of the UDHR says “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Similar rights are ensured by Article 22 of the ICCPR. Freedom of thought, conscience and religion is ensured by Article 18 of both the UDHR and the ICCPR. Freedom of movement throughout the contracting State is guaranteed by Article 12 and 13 of the ICCPR and the UDHR respectively. Therefore, depriving individuals, through banning any political party to which they may belong to, the State of Bangladesh would effectively be in violation of its international obligations.
Author: Nazir Ahmed, Barister and Solicitor, United Kingdom and director of Policy Review Centre(PRC)