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map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

Bangladesh is a parliamentary democracy, with broad powers exercised by the Prime Minister. The prime minister is appointed by the president; the prime minister must be a Member of Parliament (MP) who the president feels commands the confidence of the majority of other MPs. The cabinet is composed of ministers selected by the prime minister and appointed by the president. At least 90% of the ministers must be MPs. The other 10% may be non-MP experts or "technocrats" who are not otherwise disqualified from being elected MPs. According to the constitution, the president can dissolve Parliament upon the written request of the prime minister.

The legislature is a unicameral, 330-seat body. About 300 of its members are elected by universal suffrage at least every 5 years. The remaining 30 seats are reserved for women MPs, elected by the Parliament.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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Courts & Judgments

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, under a longstanding "temporary" provision of the Constitution, the lower courts remain part of the executive and are subject to its influence. The higher levels of the judiciary display a significant degree of independence and often rule against the Government in criminal, civil, and even politically controversial cases; however, lower level courts are more susceptible to pressure from the executive branch. There also is corruption within the legal process, especially at lower levels.

The court system has two levels: The lower courts and the Supreme Court. Both hear civil and criminal cases. The lower courts consist of magistrates, who are part of the executive branch of government, and session and district judges, who belong to the judicial branch. On June 21, 2001, the Supreme Court reconfirmed an earlier 12-point ruling regarding the procedures for a 1997 High Court order to separate the judiciary from the executive. The 12-point ruling declared which elements of the 1997 order could be implemented without requiring a constitutional amendment. The Supreme Court ordered the Government to implement those elements within 8 weeks. On August 5, Ishtiaq Ahmed, law advisor to the caretaker Government, announced that the judiciary would be separated from the executive by promulgating an ordinance. The Supreme Court is divided into two sections, the High Court and the Appellate Court. The High Court hears original cases and reviews cases from the lower courts. The Appellate Court has jurisdiction to hear appeals of judgments, decrees, orders, or sentences of the High Court. Rulings of the Appellate Court are binding on all other courts.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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Human Rights

The Banglasdesh Government's human rights record remained poor in many significant areas in 2001, and it continued to commit serious abuses, although it respected citizens' rights in some areas. Police committed a number of extrajudicial killings, and some persons died in police custody under suspicious circumstances. Police routinely used torture, beatings, and other forms of abuse while interrogating suspects. Police frequently beat demonstrators. The Government rarely punishes persons responsible for torture or unlawful deaths. Prison conditions are extremely poor for the majority of the prison population. Rape of female detainees in prison or other official custody has been a problem; however, there were no reports of such occurrences during the year. The Government continued to arrest and detain persons arbitrarily, and to use the Special Powers Act (SPA) and Section 54 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which allow for arbitrary arrest and preventive detention. The Public Safety Act (PSA), enacted in early 2000, gives the police even greater opportunity to abuse their powers. A court case challenging the constitutionality of the PSA remained pending at year's end. The lower judiciary is subject to executive influence and suffers from corruption. A large judicial case backlog existed and lengthy pretrial detention was a problem. Police searched homes without warrants, and the Government forcibly relocated illegal squatter settlements. Virtually all journalists practiced some self-censorship. Attacks on journalists and efforts to intimidate them by government officials, political party activists, and others increased. The Awami League as well as the BNP government limited freedom of assembly, particularly for political opponents, and both the Awami League and the BNP governments on occasion limited freedom of movement. The Government generally permitted a wide variety of human rights groups to conduct their activities, but it continued to refuse to register a local chapter of Amnesty International. Abuse of children and child prostitution are problems. Violence and discrimination against women remained serious problems. Societal discrimination against the disabled, indigenous people, and religious minorities was a problem. In the past, violence against members of the Ahmadiya religious minority was a problem. The Government continued to limit worker rights, especially in the Export Processing Zones (EPZ's), and, in general, is ineffective in enforcing workers' rights. Some domestic servants, including many children, work in conditions that resemble servitude and many suffer abuse. Child labor and abuse of child workers remained widespread and serious problems. Trafficking in women and children for the purpose of prostitution and at times for forced labor remained serious problems. Both major political parties and their activists often employed violence, causing deaths and numerous injuries; however, the number of deaths declined, likely due to fewer general strikes during the year. Vigilante justice resulted in numerous killings, according to press reports.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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