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EU Parliament Members Call for Visa Restrictions Against Bangladesh Over Human Rights Concerns

EU Parliament Members Call for Visa Restrictions Against Bangladesh


The recent call by two members of the European Parliament, Ilan de Basso and Kirsten Locke, have written a compelling letter to the European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. The letter, dated December 14, raises serious concerns about the deteriorating human rights situation and the hindrance of free and fair elections in Bangladesh. The parliamentarians call for concrete action in the form of visa restrictions against individuals implicated in human rights abuses and election interference. This article will explore the key points of view surrounding this issue, emphasizing the need for international intervention to address the crisis in Bangladesh.

1. Backdrop of the Situation in Bangladesh:

Against the backdrop of the situation in Bangladesh, the letter portrays the pre-election scenario as deeply worrisome, shedding light on recent incidents where Bangladeshi authorities resorted to violent suppression of opposition activists. The parliamentarians express grave concern, referencing reports from esteemed human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which indicate that approximately 10,000 opposition leaders, activists, and supporters have been subjected to arrests. This alleged widespread crackdown on political dissent serves as a troubling indicator, raising significant apprehensions about the feasibility of conducting free and credible elections. The MPs contend that the prevailing atmosphere of repression poses a direct threat to the democratic values that underpin the electoral process, emphasizing the urgent need for international intervention to safeguard the principles of democracy in Bangladesh.

2. Local Perspective in Bangladesh:

Within Bangladesh, divergent perspectives shape the narrative surrounding the current situation. From the government’s standpoint, the actions taken against opposition activists are framed as necessary measures to uphold law and order and prevent destabilization. Supporters of the ruling party argue that such interventions are crucial for maintaining a secure environment conducive to a smooth electoral process. However, a counter-narrative emerges from critics within Bangladesh, including members of the opposition, civil society, and human rights activists, echoing the concerns raised by the EU Parliament members in their letter. These local critics emphasize that the alleged widespread arrests and suppression of political dissent not only undermine democratic principles but also hinder the development of an open and inclusive political landscape. In alignment with the EU Parliamentarians, these voices within Bangladesh stress the urgency of international intervention to address the reported violations, safeguard democratic values, and ensure a fair and transparent electoral process.

3. EU Parliament’s Prior Concerns:

The letter references a resolution raised in the European Parliament in September, expressing concern about the human rights situation in Bangladesh. The resolution specifically addressed issues such as extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, freedom of expression, and labor rights. The EU Parliament had already conveyed its apprehension regarding the mass arrests of opposition representatives and the excessive use of force against protesters in Bangladesh.

4. Call for Action to Ensure Participatory Elections:

The parliamentarians commend Josep Borrell’s noteworthy statement on November 5th, advocating for the pursuit of peaceful means to conduct participatory elections in Bangladesh. Despite this commendable call, a sense of skepticism prevails among the MPs, fueled by recent events indicating a lack of active pursuit of peaceful solutions by the Bangladesh government. In light of these concerns, the parliamentarians urgently call upon Mr. Borrell to adopt a more proactive stance, underscoring the critical necessity of ensuring free, fair, and participatory elections in 2024. The MPs propose a multifaceted approach, encompassing increased diplomatic engagement, international monitoring, civil society collaboration, pressure for reforms, and support for electoral infrastructure, aiming to fortify democratic principles and signal the global commitment to a transparent and credible electoral process in Bangladesh.

5. Reference to the ‘Everything But Arms’ (EBA) Monitoring Mission:

The letter cites a recent report by the EU’s ‘Everything But Arms’ (EBA) monitoring mission, which highlights ongoing challenges in both labor and human rights in Bangladesh. The report suggests that additional efforts are required to comply with core EBA conventions on human rights. The parliamentarians stress that the EU should not passively await the results of the upcoming uncontested elections in January but should express concerns beforehand to restore participatory democracy and respect for human rights in Bangladesh.

6. Implementation of Recommendations from September 14 Resolution:

In a significant plea, the MPs urge Josep Borrell and his office to urgently implement the recommendations outlined in the parliamentary resolution from September 14, 2023. They express their eagerness to learn about the specific actions Borrell’s office is taking in response to the resolution. Given the gravity of the situation, the parliamentarians call for the imposition of visa restrictions against individuals responsible for human rights violations and obstructing free and fair elections in Bangladesh.

7. International Human Rights Organizations:

The involvement of prominent human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, serves as a critical dimension in the unfolding narrative surrounding Bangladesh’s human rights situation. These organizations, with their global reach and commitment to exposing rights abuses, have been instrumental in illuminating the challenges faced by the country. Through exhaustive reports, they have drawn attention to alleged human rights violations, extrajudicial killings, and the stifling of opposition voices, acting as watchdogs in the pursuit of justice and accountability.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, with their extensive on-the-ground investigations and firsthand accounts, contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the complexities within Bangladesh. By providing a voice to those who may otherwise go unheard, these organizations amplify the gravity of the situation, compelling the international community to take notice. Their endorsement of the EU Parliament members’ call for visa restrictions underscores a unified stance on the need for tangible consequences for those implicated in human rights abuses.

The support from these human rights organizations bolsters the credibility of the EU Parliament members’ plea, affirming the gravity of the reported violations. It also places additional pressure on international bodies and governments to act decisively in holding accountable those responsible for the alleged abuses. As these organizations continue to advocate for justice and transparency in Bangladesh, their role becomes integral in shaping a collective response that aligns with the principles of human rights and democratic governance on the global stage. The collaboration between these watchdogs and political entities underscores the interconnectedness of efforts aimed at addressing human rights abuses and fostering a commitment to accountability within the international community.3. The European Union’s Stance:

The EU Parliament’s September resolution and the subsequent letter from Ilan de Basso and Kirsten Locke underscore the European Union’s commitment to upholding human rights globally. The call for visa restrictions is seen as a tangible step toward ensuring accountability for human rights abuses. Some EU member states may advocate for stronger measures, while others might prioritize diplomatic channels and dialogue to address the issues in Bangladesh. The EU’s response will likely be shaped by the delicate balance between promoting democratic values and maintaining diplomatic relations.

8. Concerns over Election Integrity:

The focus on obstructing free and fair elections in the letter to Josep Borrell from two members of the European Parliament underscores profound concerns about the democratic process in Bangladesh. The reported violent suppression of opposition activists, including arrests and intimidation, raises questions about the credibility of the electoral environment. This situation not only undermines political pluralism but also poses a threat to the fundamental principles of democratic governance. International observers, playing a critical role in assessing the fairness of elections, are likely to express apprehensions about the transparency of the electoral process in Bangladesh. The implications stretch beyond national borders, resonating with broader international concerns regarding the integrity of democratic processes worldwide. The call for action by the EU Parliament members reflects a commitment to upholding international norms that prioritize democratic governance, emphasizing the need for collective vigilance to ensure that electoral systems globally remain transparent, inclusive, and free from coercion. As the situation in Bangladesh becomes emblematic of challenges faced by democracies globally, it offers an opportunity for the international community to reaffirm its dedication to safeguarding the democratic foundations that underpin effective and legitimate governance on a global scale. 5. Potential Economic Implications:

Visa restrictions, if implemented, could have economic ramifications for individuals implicated in human rights abuses in Bangladesh. The economic leverage of such measures might be seen as a tool to compel the government to address international concerns and take corrective actions. However, critics argue that such sanctions could adversely affect the general population and may not be the most effective means of fostering positive change.

9. The Role of Diplomacy:

Diplomatic efforts are crucial in resolving international disputes and addressing human rights concerns. Some may argue that diplomatic channels should be prioritized to engage with the Bangladeshi government, encouraging dialogue and reforms. Others may contend that a more assertive approach, such as the proposed visa restrictions, is necessary to send a clear message about the severity of the situation and the international community’s commitment to upholding human rights.

The call for visa restrictions against Bangladesh holds profound implications for the European Union’s foreign policy, prompting a critical reassessment of its role as a defender of democratic values and human rights globally. As the EU grapples with the Bangladesh situation, it faces a defining moment that will shape its credibility and set a precedent for engagements with nations confronting similar challenges. The call forces the EU to reaffirm its identity as a champion of democracy, posing a litmus test for the consistency with which it applies its professed values in foreign policy decisions. The nuanced examination of diplomatic methods versus assertive actions underscores a potential shift in approach, questioning the efficacy of traditional channels when fundamental democratic values are at stake. The EU’s response carries implications for regional stability in South Asia, influencing diplomatic ties and shaping perceptions of the EU’s commitment to addressing human rights challenges. Moreover, the handling of the Bangladesh case establishes a precedent that could guide future engagements, becoming a reference point for countries with human rights concerns. The call also prompts reflection on the EU’s dedication to multilateral cooperation, emphasizing the importance of forging alliances and leveraging collective diplomatic efforts. Ultimately, the EU’s ability to balance strategic interests and the promotion of values will be scrutinized, highlighting the delicate equilibrium required to uphold its credibility as a global advocate for democracy and human rights. The international community watches closely as the EU navigates this intricate landscape, recognizing the far-reaching impact its decisions may have on the trajectory of international relations and the promotion of shared values globally.


The call for visa restrictions against Bangladesh by two members of the European Parliament reflects the growing international concern over the human rights situation and the integrity of upcoming elections in the country. As the EU Parliament continues to scrutinize and address the alarming developments in Bangladesh, it remains to be seen how the EU and other international bodies will respond to these calls for action. The situation underscores the broader challenges faced by nations striving for democratic principles and the pivotal role that international diplomacy plays in safeguarding human rights and democratic processes.


Billal Hossain
Billal Hossain
Billal Hossain, a seasoned professional with a Master's degree in Mathematics, has built a rich and varied career as a banker, economist, and anti-money laundering expert. His journey in the financial sector has seen him in leading roles, notably in AL-Rajhi Banking Inc. in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and as Foreign Relations and Correspondent Maintenance Officer of Bank-AL-Bilad. Beyond the confines of traditional finance, Billal has emerged as a prominent writer and commentator, contributing thought-provoking columns and theses to various newspapers and online portals. His expertise spans a wide range of important global issues, including the complexities of economics, political dynamics, the plight of migrant workers, remittances, reserves, and other interrelated aspects. Billal brings a unique analytical perspective to his writing, combining academic rigor with practical insights gained from his banking career. His articles not only demonstrate a deep understanding of complex issues but also provide readers with informed perspectives, bridging the gap between theory and real-world application. Billal Hossain's contributions stand as a testament to his commitment to unraveling the complexities of our interconnected world, providing valuable insights that contribute to a broader and more nuanced understanding of the global economic landscape.


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