Country of Origin Information Report


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Country of Origin Information Report


April 2006


Country of Origin Information Service



1. Scope of Document 1.01

2. Geography 2.01

3. Economy 3.01

4. History 4.01

Pre-independence: 1947 – 1971 4.01

1972 –1982 4.05

1983 – 1990 4.09

1991 – 1999 4.15

2000 – March 2006 4.27

5. State Structures 5.01

The Constitution 5.01

Citizenship and Nationality 5.04

Political System 5.07

Government 5.07

Supervision of Elections 5.14

Judiciary 5.17

Special Tribunals 5.24

The Law and Order Disruption Crimes Speedy Trial Act 5.25

Informal Systems of Justice, and Village Courts 5.27

Fatwas 5.28

Family Law 5.29

Legal Rights/Detention 5.30

Preventive Detention and its Legislative Framework 5.31

The Special Powers Act (SPA) 5.33

Pre-trial Detention 5.37

Bail 5.39

‘Safe Custody’ 5.40

Death Penalty 5.41

Internal Security 5.44

Prisons and Prison Conditions 5.47

Military Service 5.51

Medical Services 5.52

People with Disabilities 5.58

Education System 5.60

6. Human Rights 6.01

6.A Human Rights Issues 6.01

Overview 6.01

Torture 6.08

Politically-motivated Detentions 6.11

Police and Army Accountability 6.15

Freedom of Speech and the Media 6.26

Treatment of journalists 6.30

Freedom of Religion 6.38

Introduction 6.38

Hindus 6.46

Ahmadis (Ahmadiyyas/Kadiyanis/Qadianis) 6.55

Christians 6.67

Freedom of Assembly and Association 6.71

Employment Rights 6.73

People Trafficking 6.80

Freedom of Movement 6.84

6.B Human Rights – Specific Groups 6.86

Ethnic Groups 6.86

Biharis 6.86

The indigenous Jumma peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts 6.95

Rohingya 6.107

Women 6.113

Rape 6.123

Acid Attacks 6.125

Children 6.128

Childcare Arrangements 6.136

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Persons 6.139

6.C Human Rights – Other Issues 6.140

Civil Society 6.140

Treatment of human rights NGOs 6.141

Authentication of Documents 6.146
Annex A – Chronology of Events

Annex B – Maps

Annex C – Political Organisations

Annex D – Prominent People

Annex E – List of Abbreviations

Annex F – References to Source Material
1. Scope of document

1.01 This Country of Origin Information Report (COI Report) has been produced by Research Development and Statistics (RDS), Home Office, for use by officials involved in the asylum/human rights determination process. The Report provides general background information about the issues most commonly raised in asylum/human rights claims made in the United Kingdom. It includes information available up to 10 March 2006.

1.02 The Report is compiled wholly from material produced by a wide range of recognised external information sources and does not contain any Home Office opinion or policy. All information in the Report is attributed, throughout the text, to the original source material, which is made available to those working in the asylum/human rights determination process.
1.03 The Report aims to provide a brief summary of the source material identified, focusing on the main issues raised in asylum and human rights applications. It is not intended to be a detailed or comprehensive survey. For a more detailed account, the relevant source documents should be examined directly.
1.04 The structure and format of the COI Report reflects the way it is used by Home Office caseworkers and appeals presenting officers, who require quick electronic access to information on specific issues and use the contents page to go directly to the subject required. Key issues are usually covered in some depth within a dedicated section, but may also be referred to briefly in several other sections. Some repetition is therefore inherent in the structure of the Report.
1.05 The information included in this COI Report is limited to that which can be identified from source documents. While every effort is made to cover all relevant aspects of a particular topic, it is not always possible to obtain the information concerned. For this reason, it is important to note that information included in the Report should not be taken to imply anything beyond what is actually stated. For example, if it is stated that a particular law has been passed, this should not be taken to imply that it has been effectively implemented unless stated.

1.06 As noted above, the Report is a collation of material produced by a number of reliable information sources. In compiling the Report, no attempt has been made to resolve discrepancies between information provided in different source documents. For example, different source documents often contain different versions of names and spellings of individuals, places and political parties etc. COI Reports do not aim to bring consistency of spelling, but to reflect faithfully the spellings used in the original source documents. Similarly, figures given in different source documents sometimes vary and these are simply quoted as per the original text. The term ‘sic’ has been used in this document only to denote incorrect spellings or typographical errors in quoted text; its use is not intended to imply any comment on the content of the material.

1.07 The Report is based substantially upon source documents issued during the previous two years. However, some older source documents may have been included because they contain relevant information not available in more recent documents. All sources contain information considered relevant at the time this Report was issued.
1.08 This COI Report and the accompanying source material are public documents. All COI Reports are published on the RDS section of the Home Office website and the great majority of the source material for the Report is readily available in the public domain. Where the source documents identified in the Report are available in electronic form, the relevant web link has been included, together with the date that the link was accessed. Copies of less accessible source documents, such as those provided by government offices or subscription services, are available from the Home Office upon request.
1.09 COI Reports are published every six months on the top 20 asylum producing countries and on those countries for which there is deemed to be a specific operational need. Inevitably, information contained in COI Reports is sometimes overtaken by events that occur between publication dates. Home Office officials are informed of any significant changes in country conditions by means of Country of Origin Information Bulletins, which are also published on the RDS website. They also have constant access to an information request service for specific enquiries.
1.10 In producing this COI Report, the Home Office has sought to provide an accurate, balanced summary of the available source material. Any comments regarding this Report or suggestions for additional source material are very welcome and should be submitted to the Home Office as below.

Country of Origin Information Service

Home Office

Apollo House

36 Wellesley Road

Croydon CR9 3RR

United Kingdom


Advisory Panel on Country Information
1.11 The independent Advisory Panel on Country Information was established under the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 to make recommendations to the Home Secretary about the content of the Home Office’s country of origin information material. The Advisory Panel welcomes all feedback on the Home Office’s COI Reports and other country of origin information material. Information about the Panel’s work can be found on its website at
1.12 It is not the function of the Advisory Panel to endorse any Home Office material or procedures. In the course of its work, the Advisory Panel directly reviews the content of selected individual Home Office COI Reports, but neither the fact that such a review has been undertaken, nor any comments made, should be taken to imply endorsement of the material. Some of the material examined by the Panel relates to countries designated or proposed for designation for the Non-Suspensive Appeals (NSA) list. In such cases, the Panel’s work should not be taken to imply any endorsement of the decision or proposal to designate a particular country for NSA, nor of the NSA process itself.
Advisory Panel on Country Information


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2. Geography

2.01 The People’s Republic of Bangladesh is located in south Asia and is bordered almost entirely by India, except for a small frontier in the southeast with Burma and a coastline along the Bay of Bengal in the south. The capital is Dhaka. The country covers an area of almost 57,000 square miles. (Europa Regional Surveys of the World: South Asia 2005) [1b] (p88)

2.02 The country is administratively divided into 6 Divisions, 64 Districts (Zila), 507 sub-districts (Thana or Upazila) and 4,484 Wards/Unions. There are over 87,000 villages in Bangladesh, notes the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. [77a] A particular name might refer to more than one geographical entity; for example, the city of Chittagong is situated in the district of Chittagong, which is in Chittagong Division. The ‘Chittagong Hill Tracts’ (CHT) area, referred to later in this report, comprises three of the districts within Chittagong Division. [25]

2.03 The Preliminary Report of the 2001 Population Census, published in August 2001 by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, gave the total population of Bangladesh as 129.2 million (statistically adjusted). [43a] (p4) The CIA World Factbook, updated 10 January 2006, estimated the population to have reached 144.3 million by July 2005. [62] The 2001 census showed that 76 per cent of the population resided in rural areas. The metropolitan area of Dhaka, in 2001, had a population of 9.9 million; the populations of the other principal cities (as ‘statistical metropolitan areas’) were as follows in 2001: Chittagong 6.2 million, Khulna 2.6 million, and Rajshahi 1.3 million. [43a] (p6) Apart from territories comprising less than 1,200 sq. km in area, Bangladesh is the most densely populated country in the world. (Europa Regional Surveys of the World: South Asia 2005) [1b] (p88) The 1991 census, as summarised in “Bangladesh: Census Result at a Glance” by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, classified 93.9 million people (88.2 per cent of the total 1991 population) as Muslim, 11.2 million as Hindu, 0.6 million as Buddhist and the remainder as Christian or ‘other’. [43b]

2.04 The state language is Bangla (Bengali) and is spoken by about 95 per cent of the population. (Europa World Year Book 2004) [1a] (p635) A Canadian IRB report of June 1990 stated that Biharis generally speak Urdu, and the tribal populations (Jumma peoples) of the Chittagong Hill Tracts use a variety of dialects. English is also used in commerce and administration. [3a]
2.05 On the following page is a map showing the main cities and towns and the Divisions of Bangladesh. (United Nations Cartographic Section: Map no. 3711 ref.2, dated January 2004.)

Refer also to Annex B: Maps
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3. Economy
3.01 The Economist Intelligence Unit, in its Bangladesh Country Profile of 2005 (EIU Country Profile 2005), estimated GDP per head in 2004 to have been US$402, compared with $622 for India, $626 for Pakistan and $975 for Sri Lanka. A household income and expenditure survey showed that 44.3 per cent of the population lived below the poverty line in 2000 compared with 58.8 per cent in 1991. During the 1990s, real GDP increased at an average annual rate of 4.9 per cent; GDP growth for the 2004/2005 fiscal year was 5.4 per cent, according to the EIU Country Report for January 2006. [40a] (p25-26) [40d] (p5)

3.02 Agriculture (including fisheries) employed more than half of the labour force and contributed around 20 per cent of GDP in 2004/2005, noted the EIU Country Profile 2005. Bangladesh has virtually achieved food self-sufficiency; rice production, in particular, has risen by about 150 per cent since the mid-1970s. Bangladesh is the world’s largest exporter of jute; other agricultural exports include tea and frozen foods. The share of manufactured goods in the country’s exports has increased since the 1980s as ready-made garments have emerged as the leading export commodity. [40a] (p24-37) However, a BBC News article of 6 January 2005 cautioned that the future volume of the country’s garment exports had become more uncertain with the final phasing out at the end of 2004 of international export quotas under the Multi-fibre Arrangement (MFA). The article noted that garments accounted for three-quarters of Bangladesh’s exports. About 1.8 million people, mainly women, worked in clothing factories and another 15 million jobs depended indirectly on garment manufacturing. [20ar] According to the EIU Country Report for January 2006, the knitwear sector of the garment industry continued to show strong growth during the 2004/2005 fiscal year, while the woven garment sector suffered a downturn in the same period. [40d] (p20)

3.03 The EIU Country Profile 2005 observed:

“The number of Bangladeshis working abroad and remittances from those employed abroad have been increasing since the mid-1980s. Whereas only 70,000 skilled and unskilled persons obtained employment abroad in 1985/86, more than 250,000 Bangladeshis now do so each year, bringing the total number working abroad in 2005 to around 3m. Annual remittances from those abroad amounted to US$3.8bn in 2004/05, according to statistics released by the Bangladesh Bank (BB, the central bank). The importance of remittance inflows to the economy is likely to be far greater than reflected in official data, as large sums of money are thought to enter the country through unofficial channels.” [40a] (p16)

3.04 A BBC News report of 3 August 2004 pointed out that the devastating floods of July-August 2004, which covered 60 per cent of the country, killed over 600 people and left at least 30 million displaced or stranded, had also damaged infrastructure and disrupted agricultural production and economic activity. [20af] Reuters, on 27 September 2004, quoted the World Bank as estimating that the floods had caused US $2.2 billion in damage. [4f]

3.05 The United Nations Common Country Assessment for 2004 observed:

“Roughly half the country’s rural households can be considered food insecure. Millions of children and women in Bangladesh suffer from one or more forms of malnutrition, including low birth weight, childhood growth failure (stunting), vitamin A deficiency, iodine deficiency disorders and anaemia. The most recent data indicate that 43 percent of children under five are stunted (short-for-age) and 48 percent are under-weight [quoting BDHS 2004]… Bangladesh made substantial progress in reducing child malnutrition between 1990 and 2000, with the percentage of underweight children falling from 67 to 48 percent, and child stunting falling from 66 to 43 per cent. Nevertheless, in 2004 according to WHO criteria the prevalence of child underweight and stunting was still among the highest in the world and more severe than in most other developing countries, including sub-Saharan Africa.” [8d] (p31)

3.06 Grameen Bank reported in February 2006 that it had advanced microcredit loans to 5.8 million borrowers, 96 per cent of whom are women. The Bank has 1,861 branches and its staff work in 62,089 villages. Total loan disbursement since the Bank’s founding in 1976 had reached US$5.34 billion by February 2006, of which $4.73 billion had been repaid. Although Grameen Bank does not require require any collateral against its microcredit loans or even require its borrowers to sign a legal instrument, the loan recovery rate is 98.45 per cent. [76a]
3.07 The unit of currency in Bangladesh is the ‘Taka’ (BDT), which is divided into 100 poisha/paisa, notes the Europa World Year Book 2004. [1a] (p644) The approximate rate of exchange on 28 February 2006 was £1 sterling = 119 Bangladesh taka ( Universal Currency Converter). [22]
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4. History
Pre-independence: 1947 - 1971
4.01 The Europa World Year Book 2004 (Europa 2004) notes that present-day Bangladesh was originally one of the five provinces comprising Pakistan, created following the partition of the Indian sub-continent in August 1947. Known as East Pakistan, the province was formed from the former Indian province of East Bengal and the Sylhet district of Assam. [1a] (p635)

4.02 East Pakistan, records Europa 2004, became dissatisfied with the distant central government in West Pakistan, and the situation was exacerbated in 1952 when Urdu was declared Pakistan’s official language. Discontent continued in the eastern wing, mainly due to under-representation in the administration and armed forces. The leading political party of East Pakistan, the Awami League (AL), subsequently demanded autonomy from the West. [1a] (p635)

4.03 Europa 2004 relates that a general election in December 1970 gave the AL an overwhelming victory in the East and thus a majority in Pakistan’s National Assembly. The AL decided that the province should unilaterally secede from Pakistani and, on 26 March 1971, Sheikh Mujib proclaimed the independence of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh (‘Bengal Nation’). Civil war immediately broke out. [1a] (p635)
4.04 Resistance continued from the Liberation Army of East Bengal (the Mukti Bahini), a group of irregular fighters who launched a major offensive in November 1971, notes Europa 2004. As a result, an estimated 9.5 million refugees crossed into India. On 4 December 1971 India declared war on Pakistan, with Indian forces supporting the Mukti Bahini. Pakistan surrendered to the allied forces of Bangladesh and India on 16 December 1971 and Bangladesh achieved its independence, quickly achieving international recognition. [1a]

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1972 - 1982
4.05 The Europa World Year Book 2004 states that Sheikh Mujibur became Bangladesh’s first Prime Minister in January 1972. A general election for the country’s first parliament (‘Jatiya Sangsad’) was held in March 1973: the AL won 292 of the 300 directly elective seats. Internal stability was however threatened by opposition groups resorting to terrorism. [1a] (p635)

4.06 Europa 2004 relates that, in January 1975, a presidential government and one-party rule replaced the parliamentary government; Sheikh Mujibur became President, assuming absolute power. [1a] However, Mujibur and members of his family were assassinated in a right wing coup (led by Islamist army officers) in August 1975. Martial law was then declared and political parties banned. A subsequent counter-coup on 3 November 1975 brought Khalid Musharaf, a pro-Indian commander of the Dhaka garrison, to power. This proved to be extremely short-lived, as a third coup on 7 November 1975 overthrew Musharaf and power was assumed under a neutral non-party government, with Major General Ziaur Rahman (General Zia) taking precedence. [1a] (p635)

4.07 Political parties were again legalised in July 1976, relates Europa 2004. General Zia assumed the presidency in April 1977. In the parliamentary elections of February 1979, Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) won 207 of the 300 directly elective seats in the Jatiya Sangsad. A new Prime Minister was appointed in April 1979, and martial law repealed. The state of emergency was revoked in November 1979. [1a] (p635)
4.08 Europa 2004 records that Zia was assassinated on 30 May 1981, during an attempted military coup. Political instability ensued and Vice President Abdus Sattar was nominated President. Sattar (finding it difficult to retain civilian control) formed a National Security Council in January 1982, led by Chief of the Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Hossain Mohammad Ershad. On 24 March 1982 Ershad seized power in a bloodless coup. Martial law was again declared, with Ershad as Chief Martial Law Administrator (although in October 1982 Ershad changed his title to Prime Minister), aided by a military Council of Advisers. [1a] (p635)
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1983 - 1990

4.09 The Europa World Year Book 2004 notes that, although the Government’s economic policies achieved some success, increasing demands for a return to democracy ensued throughout 1983, comments Europa 2004. The two principal opposition groups that emerged were an eight-party alliance, headed by a faction of the Awami League under Sheikh Hasina (daughter of the late Sheikh Mujibur) and a seven-party group, led by a faction of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) under former President Sattar and Begum Khaleda Zia (widow of General Zia). In September 1983 the two groups formed an alliance: the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy. In November 1983, permission was given for the resumption of political activity and a new political party, the Jana Dal (People’s Party) was formed to support Ershad as a presidential candidate. Ershad declared himself President on 11 December 1983. [1a] (p636)

4.10 In January 1985, records Europa 2004, a new Council of Ministers was formed, composed almost entirely of military officers and excluding all members of the Jana Dal (in response to the opposition parties’ demands for a neutral government during the pre-election). However, President Ershad refused to relinquish power to an interim government. The National Front (NF), a new five-party political alliance, (comprising the Jana Dal, the United People’s Party, the Gonotantrik Party, the Bangladesh Muslim League and a breakaway section of the BNP) was established in September 1985 to promote government policies. [1a] (p636)
4.11 Europa 2004 notes that the ten-month ban on political activity was lifted in January 1986, and the NF formally became a single pro-government entity: the Jatiya Party (National Party). Although smaller opposition parties participated in the parliamentary elections in May 1986 the elections were boycotted by the BNP. The Jatiya Party won 153 of the 300 directly elective seats in the Jatiya Sangsad. Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury, the former General-Secretary of the Jatiya Party, was appointed Prime Minister in July 1986. [1a] (p636)
4.12 Ershad joined the Jatiya Party in September 1986, being elected as Chairman of the party, relates Europa 2004. In the presidential election of October 1986 (which was boycotted by both the BNP and AL) Ershad received 22 million votes. In November 1986, the Jatiya Sangsad approved indemnity legislation (legalising the military regime’s actions since March 1982). Ershad then repealed martial law and formed a new Council of Ministers, including four MPs from the AL. [1a] (p636)

4.13 Europa 2004 records that dissension from the opposition continued throughout 1987 and President Ershad declared a nationwide state of emergency on 27 November of that year. In December 1987, after 12 opposition members had resigned and the 73 AL members had agreed to do likewise, Ershad dissolved the Jatiya Sangsad. The Jatiya Party won a large majority of seats in the parliamentary elections of 3 March 1988. Later that month, Moudud Ahmed, an ally of Ershad, was appointed Prime Minister. Ershad repealed the state of emergency in April 1988. [1a] (p636)
4.14 Violence, anti-government demonstrations and strikes occurred throughout the country in 1990, Europa 2004 notes. Ershad re-proclaimed a state of emergency on 27 November 1990, and later resigned on 4 December 1990, simultaneously revoking the state of emergency (again), and dissolving the Jatiya Sangsad. The newly appointed Vice President, Shahabuddin Ahmed, assumed the responsibilities of acting President, and was placed at the head of a neutral caretaker government. In the week following his resignation, Ershad was placed under house arrest. [1a] (p637)

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