Former “prisoner of conscience” elected as new IPU president

Geneva, 16 October 2014
Bangladesh MP and former Amnesty International “prisoner of conscience” Saber Chowdhury was today elected as the new President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).
He defeated three other candidates – Speaker of Australia’s House of Representatives Bronwyn Bishop, Indonesian MP Nurhayati Ali Assegaf and former Speaker of the Maldives Parliament Abdulla Shahid  –  in an election on the concluding day of the 131st IPU Assembly. He becomes the 28th president of the Organization in its 125-year history.
President Chowdhury is the third IPU president from South Asia after Najma Heptulla (1999-2002) and Gurdial Singh Dhillon (1973-1976).
He takes over from former Moroccan Speaker of Parliament Abdelwahad Radi, who ends his three-year mandate today.
A former businessman with an education in law, politics and economics in the UK, President Chowdhury first became an MP in 1996 at the age of 35. He was also the youngest member of the government when he held two deputy ministerial posts in succession between 1999 and 2001.
A political prisoner in the early 2000’s, he is a firm believer in the rule of law and human rights. He was involved in ground-breaking legislation to criminalize custodial torture in Bangladesh and to address domestic violence.
An active national politician who has also pioneered community initiatives on a range of social and economic issues targeting women and youth in particular, President Chowdhury has similarly been active on the international stage for a number of years.
Climate change, disaster-risk reduction, sustainable development and nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament have been the focus of much of his international political work. Within IPU and as a former president of IPU’s Committee on Peace and International Security, he has played an important role on issues relating to a key objective of the Organization.
“Politics and public service is about helping people to solve their problems, to live their dreams. My belief is to always improve upon what you find and leave a better, more peaceful world. I will be an active president, accessible and leading from the front,” he said.