Ensure Khaleda’s Proper Treatment, Fair Trial Rights: Amnesty To Bangladesh

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Amnesty International yesterday urged Bangladesh to allow BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia to access specialised health-care and to get fair trial rights.

The international rights organisation in a statement called upon the authorities to ensure that Khaleda is treated in accordance with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners.

Citing various media reports, the statement said to treat her arthritis, Khaleda’s personal doctors advised her specialised treatment at a private hospital where she used to undergo treatment before her detention.

“… despite repeated requests from Khaleda Zia and her family … the government has declined [to do so],” it said.

This is inconsistent with the provisions of the UN rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, also known as Nelson Mandela Rules, which specifies that prisoners, requiring specialised treatment or surgery, shall be transferred to specialised institutions or to civil hospitals.

Khaleda’s family members told the organisation that the government had refused to disclose her official medical reports to them, which is deeply concerning and also inconsistent with the UN rules, the statement mentioned.

The rules provide: “… all prisoners should be granted access to their files upon request. A prisoner may appoint a third party to access his or her medical file.”

According to Rule 24, “provision of health care for prisoners is a State responsibility and that prisoners should enjoy the same standards of health care that are available in the community and without discrimination,” said the statement.

Amnesty also said that some charges against her are not consistent with international law and standards — such as hurting religious sentiments, making “defamatory statement” on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, celebrating her [Khaleda Zia’s] “fake” birthday, undermining national flag, and for commenting on the number of liberation war martyrs.

Stating that she has secured bail in 34 cases that have yet to proceed to the trial stage, the statement said there were concerns regarding infringements of Khaleda Zia’s right to a fair hearing.

“… a High Court division bench granted bail in the Charitable Trust case on 12 March 2018, taking into consideration the severity of the sentence, her age and medical condition. However, the bail order was hastily stayed by the Appellate Division of the Bangladesh Supreme Court, led by the chief justice, on 14 March 2018 without hearing the defendant’s lawyers and by only allowing the prosecution to present their case.”

Khaleda Zia’s counsel declared such a step unprecedented, it said, adding that excluding a defence lawyer from a hearing where the prosecutor is present is violation of the principle of “equality of arms”.





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