UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking Restrained in Bangladesh and Not Permitted to Fulfill UN Obligations
Tuesday, July 17, 2007 3:09 PM

Geneva, June 7, 2007  —  UN Watch released new details confirming that the Bangladeshi government is blocking Ms. Sigma Huda, the UN Human Rights Council's investigator of human trafficking, from leaving the country to address a scheduled session in Geneva this Monday. The human rights monitoring organization applauded a UN official for heeding UN Watch's earlier appeal for action but urged others to follow.

UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer today issued the following statement:

We welcome High Commissioner Louise Arbour's decision to pursue our call to action. We urge other officials—Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Council President Luis Alfonso De Alba and the leaders of the Council’s Asian and Islamic groups—to use their own considerable influence to obtain Ms. Huda's immediate release.

By preventing her from leaving the country, the government of Bangladesh is in violation of Ms. Huda's internationally-protected right to freedom of movement and expression.  Bangladesh has no right to deny a UN expert—or any citizen—her right to leave on the reported basis that “she may give statements detrimental” to it. 

As one of the 47 members of the Human Rights Council, Bangladesh is obligated “to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights [and to] fully cooperate with the Council.”  Restricting the right to travel and attempting to muzzle free speech rights, seemingly for political reasons, of a citizen who is also one of the Council’s human rights experts blatantly violates both of these requirements. 

If Bangladesh refuses to comply immediately with its international obligations and lift its restrictions against Ms. Huda, the ultimate sanction against a Council member—removal by the General Assembly—should be pursued.

Regrettably, Bangladesh's use of heavy-handed tactics against a UN expert only underscores the paradox whereby many Council members are themselves the worst violators of human rights, with a majority expected to enact new measures next week to restrict the independence of human rights experts and to outright eliminate those mandated to report on country violations. Tragically, at the Human Rights Council it often seems like the foxes are guarding the chickens.

Published in: “New Revelations of Bangladeshi Harassment of UN Trafficking Expert Sigma Huda,” press release, Womens United Nations Report Network, 7 June 2007.