Senate debates

Tuesday, 30 November 2021


Begum Khaleda Zia

1:52 pm

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to draw attention to the prolonged deterioration in the health of former Bangladeshi Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia. Seventy-six-year-old Zia was arrested on corruption charges almost four years ago. She has been moved from jail to hospital for treatment and then, when the pandemic broke out, she was allowed to stay at her home under house arrest. Zia suffers from chronic and deteriorating diabetes and arthritis. Her doctors and family members have informed Amnesty International that her condition is deteriorating and she urgently requires specialised health care but this has been repeatedly denied by the Bangladeshi government.

The Bangladeshi government's treatment of Zia is in violation of the UN standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners, which stipulate that 'Prisoners who require specialized treatment or surgery shall be transferred to specialized institutions or to civil hospitals' and that 'Prisoners should enjoy the same standards of health care that are available in the community … without discrimination'. Zia's family have also told Amnesty that the Bangladeshi government have refused to make Zia's health reports public, in violation of these UN rules. Bangladesh is also a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which commits it to respect, protect and fulfil the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

The Bangladesh government's treatment of Zia is appalling. I urge our foreign minister to speak to her Bangladeshi counterpart and to urge for Zia to be transferred to a specialised facility where she can receive adequate care for her health conditions. I also urge our government to remind Bangladesh of its commitment to uphold the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and to pay heed to calls to allow Begum Khaleda Zia to travel to access the necessary health care to aid her deteriorating health conditions.