Date, Venue & Participants
On January 17th, 2017, Council of Minorities (CoM) organized a Press Conference on “Citizen Draft Bill 2016” at Press Club VIP Launch in Dhaka. The press conference was attended Mrs. Taslima Yesmin assistant professor, department of law university of Dhaka, Supreme Court lawyer Mr. Tajul Islam, Urdu Speaking People Youth Rehabilitation Movement (USPYRM) president Mr. Sadaqat Kahn, Mr. Imaran Khan Secretary of Urdu Speaking Student Movement and Mohammadpur camps representatives also attended the press conference.
Context of the Press Conference
The Citizenship Draft Bill 2016 has been approved by the cabinet on 1st February, 2016. If passed in the parliament, the bill will replace the existing Citizenship Act 1951 and the Bangladesh Citizenship Temporary Provisions Order 1972. In August 2016 CoM has hosted a workshop on the critical reflection on draft citizenship bill and generated some recommendations against the draft bill-2016. The context of the press conference was critical reflection on draft citizenship and recommendations of the bill.
Objective of the Workshop
The purpose of the press conference organised by Council of Minorities was to exposition of critical reflection the draft bill and proposed the recommendations against the draft bill-2016 to inform and raise voice through media before it is placed in the parliament for enactment. Press Briefing
The press conference started with an introductory speech about the bill and objectives of the press conference by Mr. Tajul Isalm Supreme Court lawyer and then after his speech Khalid Hussain, Chief Executive of CoM has presented keynote paper on critical reflection the draft bill and proposed the recommendations against the draft bill-2016.
After the keynote media personals raise question and the questions are as below:
- How the Urdu Speaking Community will be effected by this bill
- How many community will be effected after enact this bill
- Did we submit any memorandum about this bill to home ministry and law ministry
- Do we have any propose recommendations
- How can we motivate the law ministry to think about and review the bill again
- What are our next steps in this regards
Chief Executive of CoM Khalid Hussain and Taslima Yesmin assistant professor department of law university of Dhaka has briefly answer their questions and she said the propose bill was not acceptable and properly planed and she explained that the draft included some citizens in second class category and it will also create the risk of statelessness situation within Bangladesh.
Khalid Hussain said to the media that “we welcome a new citizenship law in Bangladesh for the citizens of Bangladesh however the law should include the people as citizens not should be exclude the citizens to become as stateless” and he also said that there is some site of the bill and we want to review of this draft bill before the enact in the parliament and also this bill after the law should shown the respect to the constitution of Bangladesh.
Mr. Sadakat Khan president USPYRM said “ after long time we have recognized as citizens of Bangladesh and now we all Urdu Speaking camp dwellers are voter and we conceder our self as Urdu Speaking Bangladesh and it would be not good to take away our citizenship after enacted this bill” he also said honourable prime minister is very much positive to rehabilitated the camp dwellers in Bangladesh and already prime minister office issued the letters to the district commissioner office to find the vacant land near by Dhaka city for Mohammadpur and Mirpur camps dwellers.
After the press conference we have to do below activities as a part of our advocacy on draft citizenship bill-2016
- Submit memorandum along with a set of recommendations to the home ministry and law ministry
- Distribution of fliers to members of parliaments and civil society
- Compile a media toolkits to distribute the editors of the print media to publish report on draft bill
- Compile a comprehensive brief report and distribute to civil society
Council of Minorities (CoM)
Council of Minorities (CoM) is a human rights organization with a special focus on establishing the rights of minorities and indigenous people. Established in 2012, CoM envisions a peaceful, poverty-free and xenophobia-free world where people, especially minorities and indigenous people, the powerless and marginalized will have equal opportunities to live with dignity and hope. CoM is trying to ensure social, cultural, political, constitutional and economic rights of the minorities and indigenous people through partnership, networking, and advocacy and lobbying with the Government. CoM promotes and fosters mass awareness on minority rights and duties; creates social awareness against social stigma, discrimination and xenophobia through performing arts, drama and documentary films; enhances the capacity of minorities and indigenous people to organize training, seminars and workshops on their rights; and organises summits and fellowship programs for minority people
Date, Venue & Participants
On August28th, 2016, Council of Minorities (CoM) hosted a half-day workshop on “Citizen Draft Bill 2016” at YWCA Auditorium in Dhaka. The34workshop participants represented civil society organisations, media, academia and the linguistic minority community.
Context of the Workshop
The Citizenship Draft Bill 2016 has been approved by the cabinet on 1stFebruary, 2016. If passed in the parliament, the bill will replace the existing Citizenship Act 1951 and the Bangladesh Citizenship Temporary Provisions Order 1972.
Objective of the Workshop
The purpose of the workshop organised by Council of Minorities was to review thedraft bill before it is placed in the parliament for enactment. The recommendations identified in this workshop would be the basis of future advocacy discussions with parliamentarians, legal experts, civil society activists and journalists.
The workshop opened with an introductory speech made by Mr. Zakir Hossain, the President of Council of Minorities. Following his speech,Mr. Shahariar Sadat, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh and Academic Coordinator, South Asian Institute of Advanced Legal and Human Rights Studies(SAILS), presentedhis critical reflection on the draft bill. He explained how the draft bill, if passed without modification, willviolate fundamental human rights. It will alsorender many Bangladeshis stateless, and create a social and political crisis.
The current citizenship draft bill may be an attempt to override the supremacy of the constitution of Bangladesh. With reference to Art 7 of the constitution of Bangladeshand the landmark case of Marbury v. Madison in US Supreme Court, Mr. Sadat emphasizedthat “the constitution is the pinnacle/supreme source of law of a country, with a written constitution and no law can override or violate the fundamental fabric of the constitution”. The court can declare any provision of legislation as unconstitutional and the Parliament is required to modify that lawin accordance with the constitutional principles.
Throughout the workshop,the participants engaged in open discussions and group worktoanalysedifferent sections of the draft bill. These discussions identified several crucial areas in the draft where amendment is necessary to ensure social stability and compliance with the fundamental constitutional principles, existing domestic laws, judgement by the apex courtandinternational legal instruments.
Recommendations of Workshop Participants
The recommendations generated from the discussions in the workshop have been summarised and categorised under respective sections of the draft bill.
|Clarify the meaning/definitions of “foreign enemy”, “allegiance” and “deny the existence of Bangladesh”.
|Rephrase this section in an affirmative manner. Eg. “This law will not override any existing laws, decrees etc…” Article 102 of the Bangladeshi constitution & Indian Citizenship Law 2015 can be referred here.
|Section 4 (2)
||Children should not be victimised for the action of their parents. Remove section 4 (2) (a) and (b) or make it simpler. Right to citizenship by birth should be given to anyone who was born in the territory of Bangladesh and whose either parent is a Bangladeshi citizen.
|Section 5 (2)
||Birth certificate should not be essential criteria of citizenship. Children of Bangladeshi citizens have the right to obtain Bangladeshi citizenship, irrespective of their place of birth.
|Section 5 (2) (a)
||Extend the time period for receiving birth certificate up to six years.
|Section 5 (2) (c)
||Remove this sectionbecause we all are equal before the law.
|Section 5 (3)
||Explain which activities “deny the existence of Bangladesh”.There must be written declaration denying existence of Bangladesh. Merge this section with Section 2.
|Section 8 (1)
||Explain clearly why Bangladeshis cannot have dual citizenship of SAARC countries and Myanmar.
||List the “conditions” for naturalization.
|Section 11(b, c, e)
||These articles violate the right to marriage and should be removed.
||Remove the section.
||Mergethis section with section 4 “Citizenship by Birth”. In cases wherethe authority deniescitizenship of children, opportunity for appeal should be given. Appeal can be lodged within 90 days of the decision.
|Section 18 (a)
||Clear definition of ‘allegiance’ is required. Remove this word.
|Section 19 (2)
||Should not cancel citizenship of children whose parents have revoked Bangladeshi citizenship. Minor children born to Bangladeshi parent(s) should be allowed to choose their citizenship when they become adults.
|Section 20 (1) (c)
||Define the “actions and behaviour” that express non-allegiance to Bangladesh’s sovereignty and constitution. Who is responsible for identifying such actions and behaviour?Replace “non-allegiance” with “activities that pose threat to national security”.
||Many members of the Urdu speaking community cannot use their real address in the NID card because their residences do not always have holding numbers. An article should be added in section 22 to exempt the Urdu speakers from its application.
|Section 28 (2)
||Modify this section.
Follow-up Advocacy Actions
A bottom up approach is needed to influence the policy makers. This includes:
- Discussions with parliamentarians
- Roundtable dialogue with lawmakers and civil society groups
- Distribution of fliers highlighting the recommendations of workshop participants
- A press conference to sensitize media personnel about the anomalies in some sections of the Citizenship Draft Bill 2016
- Awareness sessions and expert discussions on electronic media. Eg. radio programs and TV talk shows
- Op-ed innational and international newspapers
- Use of social media extensively
- A memorandum can be prepared to be sent to the international development partners.
Council of Minorities (CoM)
Council of Minorities (CoM)is a human rights organization with a special focus on establishing the rights of minorities and indigenous people. Established in 2012, CoM envisionsa peaceful, poverty-free and xenophobia-free world where people, especially minorities and indigenous people, the powerless and marginalized will have equal opportunities to live with dignity and hope.
CoM is trying to ensure social, cultural, political, constitutional and economic rights of the minorities and indigenous people through partnership, networking, and advocacy and lobbying with the Government. CoM promotes and fosters mass awarenesson minority rights and duties; creates social awareness against social stigma, discrimination and xenophobia through performing arts, drama and documentary films;enhances the capacity of minorities and indigenous people to organize training, seminars and workshops on their rights; and organises summits and fellowship programs for minority people.