Council of Minorities holds a workshop on Bangladesh's draft citizenship bill

On the 28th of August the Council of Minorities in partnership with Namati and UNHCR held a workshop to discuss the 2016 draft Citizenship Bill. The bill is meant to repeal the current citizenship laws and has several unconstitutional provisions. It establishes itself as the supreme law in the country. Section 3 of the bill reads:

Notwithstanding anything contained in any other Act, Legal Instrument, Judgment , Decree etc., the provisions of this Act shall prevail.

This means even rulings that granted nationality to minority communities like the Urdhu speaking minorities shall not be applicable. This goes against the constitution of the republic Article 7(2) that states:

This Constitution is, as the solemn expression of the will of the people, the supreme law of the Republic, and if any other law is inconsistent with this Constitution that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.

The bill looks at historical crimes than solving the current nationality issues and thus causing much harm than good. The bill seeks to punish children and grandchildren for the crimes of their parents and their grandparents.

Section 5 (3) on citizenship by descent, states that:

Any person shall not be qualified to be a Bangladeshi citizen under sub-section (1) and (2) if s/he or his/her father or mother joins any military or quasi-military or any special force and engages or had engaged in a war against Bangladesh or denied the existence of Bangladesh or is engaged in any activity against Bangladesh

Section 11 © states that one can never get citizenship through marriage if:

his/her father, mother, grandfather or grandmother is not engaged in a war against Bangladesh or not a member of alien enemy force

These sections removes the protections a child should enjoy and exposes the child to human rights violation including the risk of statelessness. This bill will create a very huge number of stateless population in the country and resolving it would be close to impossible since even judicial intervention won’t be possible since section 3 of the bill seeks to make it supreme than even the constitution and protects it from judicial interpretations.

The Council of Minorities has since compiled and submitted recommendations for the amendment of the draft citizenship bill from the Bangladeshi Urdu-speaking community. The summary document is available in both English and Bengali.

The meeting, organized by Council of Minorities (COM), featured key players like Shahariar Sadat, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh and Academic Coordinator, SAILS. Dhaka University teacher Taslima Yasmin among other participants.

Image of the workshop

The COM paralegals also participated in the workshop. It is essential for the paralegals to participate in such workshops since it builds on their legal knowledge and also teaches them how to contribute to the policy formulation process. @urdu congratulations on this successful event and kindly keep us updated on the process. @lauragoodwin @Cnior @Purity_Wadegu @aishakhagai @zena @Naima_Rajab @yasahkym @makkahyusuf from your experience what do you think of the excessive discretion granted to the officials in the bill?

UPDATE: The Council of Minorties has since drafted and submitted recommendations on the draft Citizenship Bill on behalf of Bangladesh’s Urdu-speaking community. The document can be found here.

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I think in this whole process the community representatives should be involved in each of the process undertaken in the policy formulation.The reason behind it, is for sustainability of the project as an exit strategy. The community are the biggest beneficiary hence there presence is crucial in achieving the transformation change we were discussing about on Namati strategy. What am looking at is an informed community on the various “bad laws” that have impeded them there rights to a nationality. There consent and support in spearheading for policy change gives more weight and clearly portrays to the government that the community is in solidarity and well aware that there is need to amend the Citizenship Bill.

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Just came across a New York Times opinion piece on the issue from April 2017: “How Bangladesh Makes Second-Class Citizens

And a few more in other media outlets for those interested:

‘New citizenship bill creates second-class citizens’, Dhaka Tribune, February 5, 2017

Review proposed citizenship law, The Daily Star, January 8, 2017

Dual citizenship and the Draft Bangladesh Citizenship Act 2016, The Independent, April 23, 2016

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