GHRD was invited to speak at a seminar in Stockholm, on the 14th of November 2009, which was organised by the Swedish branch of the International Forum for Secular Bangladesh and Trial of War Criminals of 1971.
The seminar which was held at Stockholm University, based on the theme ‘Genocide in Bangladesh 1971 and the rise of islamic militancy’ was chaired by Mr. Aktar M. Zaman, President of the organisation’s Swedish branch.
The objective was to present and reflect on the issues of fundamentalism, the rise of islamic militancy, contemporary minority prosecution and the need of establishing democracy and freedom of speech in Bangladesh and worldwide. Mr. Shahriar Kabir, a well known Bangladeshi journalist, author and a prominent film maker was also present and he presented his documentary ‘War Crimes 71’.
The documentary was made to advocate for trial, those who were responsible for the atrocities during the 1971 independence, were 3 million innocent people were killed and approximately 200 000 thousand women raped.
His excellency Mr. Imtiaz Ahmed, the Ambassador of Peoples Republic of Bangladesh, Scandinavia also participated in the seminar.
Guest speakers reflected on topics from various angles. Members of Parliament spoke about their commitment in third countries and the importance of an open and free civil society to respect fundamental human rights. Writer Maria Modig and former vice- president of Sweden PEN, highlighted the issue of freedom of speech and persecution of journalists and writers, and particularly referred to the cases of Tasneem Khalil and Taslima Nasreen, Bangladeshi writers who both have found refuge in Sweden in the past. Mr. Din Sial Chaudry, columnist and political activist from Pakistan highlighted the development of islamist militancy resulting in human rights atrocitieis in Pakistan.
GHRD took this opportunity to address the the current situation of abductions and forced conversions of young minority girls (and boys.) Jenny Lundström, Human Rights Officer, gave an overview of the current cases investigated by GHRD and the lack of governmental response in Bangladesh. She also emphasised upon the need to ‘not focus only on these cases as a violation of freedom of religion, as it risks to simplify these deeds, overlooking crucial aspects and thus undermining our understanding and ability to tackle this problem and ultimately, help the victims’
‘Next to an issue of religious freedom, these acts contain violations against the right to liberty, to marry; to childbirth. Some of the acts, such as sexual violence, rape, gang rape, abduction and sexual slavery, forced marriages, forced pregnancy, forced maternity, constitute torture under customary international law.’
She ended her speech addressing the Ambassador of Bangladesh with concrete recommendations to the government.
The Ambassador of Bangladesh, his excellency Imtiaz Ahmed finally entered the speakers chair and shared his view on the issues raised. He emphasised that his government is aware of the work that lies ahead, and that they are taking this task seriously. He thereafter also responded directly to the issues raised and to the recommendations made by GHRD in a positive manner. ‘We know that we have problems in our country and we can always benefit from constructive criticism. Your recommendations are noted and will be put forwarded.’ he replied.
GHRD would like to thank the International Forum for Secular Bangladesh for the invitation and for organising this important and successful event.
Chair of seminar
Mr. Aktar M. Zaman, President of the Swedish branch of the International Forum for Secular Bangladesh and Trial of War Criminals of 1971
Mr. Din Sial Chaudry, columnist and political activist from Pakistan.
Ms. Maria Modig, Writer and former vice-president of Sweden PEN.
Mr. Jakob Johnsson, MP, Swedish Leftist Party.
Mr. Erik Ullenhag, MP and the General Secretary of Folk Party of Sweden.
Ms. Jenny Lundström, Human Rights Officer, GHRD, The Hague, The Netherlands.
Guest of Honour
His excellency Mr. Imtiaz Ahmed, the Ambassador of Peoples Republic of Bangladesh, Scandinavia.