Advocacy in Europe states in high hope
January 26, 2009: The advocacy in Europe has started at high hopes as five-member delegation of Bhutanese Advocacy Forum – Europe (BAF-Europe) headed by its coordinator Durga Giri held meetings with high level European Union officials at Brussels on January 25.
The delegates met with Jean-Christian Remond and Rensje Teerind, Head and deputy Head of Unit for India and Bhutan and Nepal at the European Commission respectively.
The meeting lasted for one hour during which detail issues concerning 1985 Citizenship Act, right to equal protection of culture, custom and tradition, language and script, religion, establishment of national human rights commission, ratification of UN conventions, inclusive democracy and governance, release of political prisoners, political dialogue for lasting peace, repatriation of Bhutanese in exile, EU Aid and human rights situation in Bhutan were discussed in detail with the EU leaders.
The delegates submitted a memorandum to the EU.
On the occasion the delegates appealed the European commission to pressurize The Bhutan government to initiate the repartition of those exiled Bhutanese willing to get back to homeland with dignity and honor at the earliest.
“We are not satisfied with Bhutan government for its unsatisfactory cooperation with regards to the repatriation of Bhutanese refugees willing to go back to Bhutan” said Remond in response to the issues of repatriation raised by the delegates.
Despite such non cooperation, the EU leaders said they continue to give its top priority on repatriation issue in their future meeting with Bhutan that is scheduled for April this year. They assured the delegates that EC is closely monitoring the status of around 80,000 Bhutanese who were deprived of their various rights including their right to vote in the last general election of 2008 in Bhutan.
The EC officials expressed their happiness on the formation of first ever advocacy forum of Bhutanese in Europe and assured possible assistance to help institutionalize the advocacy forum. They also assured the delegates that the advocacy forum can act as a bridge between the Bhutanese human rights movement and European commission and its door will always be opened for future meetings.
Similarly another meeting was held at the European Parliament with Jean Lambert, Head of delegation for South Asia cum member of European parliament from London’s green party. Besides the issues raised with European commission the delegate also appraised that the crux of the problem is the implementation of ethnic cleansing policies like “one nation one people”, Citizenship Act of 1985 and other discriminatory policies in the late eighties.
“The government should accept the flaws in its policies instead of diverting the issue of human rights to the issue of illegal immigrants and come for negotiation with the dissident political forces,” stressed Giri.
The delegates appealed the EU to see the possibility of mediation with the RGOB for initiating political dialogue with the dissident group to achieve the lasting solution to the crisis.
The parliamentarian expressed her views that it is a positive thinking towards the resolution of the crisis and would explore the possibility with the European Parliament and the Bhutanese authority. She was apprised about the pathetic situation of Bhutanese prisons and brutal tortures to the political prisoners in various prisons in Bhutan.
On the occasion, Hem Rizal, a delegate member who is also a former Bhutanese political prisoner, narrated his bitter experiences in Bhutan jail.
In her response she assured the delegates about her full support towards Bhutanese advocacy activities in Europe and expressed her happiness for being able to interact with exiled Bhutanese delegates and getting first hand information on situation of Bhutanese in exile and overall human rights situation inside Bhutan.