By Meherba Sabrin & H M Fazle Rabbi

How do you interview a person suffering from PTSD to find out incidents of human rights violation? How do you extract facts from a political goon who answers all your questions but actually evades all your queries? These are no ordinary tests; in fact, one needs a set of special skills to do human rights fact-finding. With that aim in mind, Empowerment through Law of the Common People (ELCOP) conducted the Human Rights Fact-Finding training session with its first batch of Simulation Project for Integrating Youth through Community Empowerment (SPIYCE). The training was held on 29th-30th March 2019 at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh (CBCB) Auditorium. The first of its kind in Bangladesh, SPIYCE combines the model of Simulation conducted by Clinical pedagogy of Street Law to train the participants in community-level engagement, rights-based fact-finding operation, and creating 20 community leaders. 

An inaugural ceremony was held at the beginning of the training session. Professor Dr. Mizanur Rahman ( former Chairman, National Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh) was the Chief Guest, while Barrister Tapas K. Baul (Prosecutor, International Crimes Tribunal-Bangladesh) and Dr. S.M. Masum Billah (Associate Professor, Jagannath University) were the Special Guests.  The training sessions began with Dr. Mizanur Rahman introducing the students to human rights. Dr. Billah then conducted a session on Human Rights Fact Finding. Arpeeta Shams Mizan then talked about the technical aspects of human rights fact-finding. Following the lunch break, the afternoon sessions included Sultana Kamal, former Executive Director of Ain o Salish Kendra, elaborating on the key-concepts of fact-finding and the methods of report writing. The first day ended with the instructors demonstrating on empathetic listening skills.

On the second day of the training session, the participants went through a real-time simulation. Simulation means a make belief role-playing. The participants were deemed to be members of a Fact-Finding Commission under ELCOP who are investigating an alleged incident of communal riot and disappearance of a women rights activist in the fictional village of Mektaf in the country of Adhikarbhumi, which was under curfew.  6 Law teachers and Law students played roles of villagers, political goons, UP Chairman, police constables, etc. They each had their own set of confidential information about an alleged incident. The participants were divided in small groups, and their task was to interview these roleplayers to find out the whole fact, what rights were violated, and who were the actual perpetrators in the violence. There were many surprises, like when suddenly the SP of Police (played by Sayeed Sarwar, faculty member, AIUB) ‘arrested’ the interviewers for causing public nuisance!!   After the simulation, the groups presented their findings in the classroom and received feedback from the instructors. 

Second Phase – Two days with the midst of Trans Community

To understand their perspective on life, law, rights, and remedies of the transgender communities in Bangladesh, 8 students with 4 Law teachers from SPIYCE spent a weekend amidst the Hijra community members.

The participants were accompanied by local guides to visit Hijra community members from
Moghbazar, Kamalapur, Shampur and Dhupkhola on the first day whereas and Postogola and
Doyagonj on the second. With in-depth empathetic victim interviewing of about thirty Hijras, the
team gathered facts to support patterns of human rights violation faced by the community. The
facts draw on three broad areas: freedom of religion and identity crisis, patterns of disintegration
from mainstream society, and economic freedom.

During the conversations, the victims shared how they become victims of human rights
violations on every sphere of their life. Transgenders described how difficult is their way of
livings, how they became prey of social oppressors since their childhood. Participants noted
down in which sectors transgenders become the victim of human rights violation most.

On the second day, while visiting Postogola and Doyagonj, participants got a detailed conception of the violations of human rights on the Trans community. They learned about job obstacles, social hardships, and difficulties of livings of a transgender.

For further information, or to participate in SPIYCE, please mail elcop71@gmail.com

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