Bangladesh

 

  • Country recommendations on civic space for the UN´s Universal Periodic Review

    CIVICUS and its partners have submitted joint and stand-alone UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 9 countries in advance of the 30th UPR session (May 2018). The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations. Countries examined include: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Colombia, Cuba, Djibouti, Russia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan:

    Bangladesh (Individual/Joint): In this UPR, CIVICUS draws attention to a range of legislative restrictions which have been strengthened and imposed to curtail the operation of independent civic groups in Bangladesh. Of particular concern, are new restrictions on groups seeking funds from abroad, as well the repeated use of the penal code to arrest HRDs and place blanket bans on meetings and assemblies. We further examine the spate of extrajudicial killings against secular bloggers and LGBTI activists which is illustrative of Bangladesh’s downward spiral with respect to civic freedoms and systemic failure to protect civil society.

    Burkina Faso (EN/FR): CIVICUS, the Burkinabé Coalition of Human Rights Defenders and the West African Human Right Defenders Network examine unwarranted limitations on freedom of expression and assembly. Despite several positive developments since the popular uprising of 2014, such as the decriminalisation of defamation and the adoption of a law on the protection of human right defenders, restrictions on the freedom of expression including suspensions of media outlets by the national media regulator and attacks and threats against journalists continue.

    Cameroon: CIVICUS, Réseau des Défenseurs Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC) and the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) highlight Cameroon’s fulfilment of the right to association, assembly and expression and unwarranted persecution of human rights defenders since its previous UPR examination.  We assess the ongoing judicial persecution and detention of human rights defenders on trumped up charges, the use of anti-terrorism legislation to target journalists and excessive use of force against peaceful protesters.  

    Colombia(EN/SP): CIVICUS highlights the hostile environment for human rights defenders, social leaders and unions workers who are routinely subject to physical attacks, targeted assassinations, harassment and intimidation by state and non-state actors. CIVICUS examines the increased number of attacks against journalists as well as the government’s lack of effective implementation of protection mechanisms to safeguard the work of journalists and human rights defenders.

    Cuba (EN/SP): CIVICUS and the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) highlight the constitutional, legal and de facto obstacles to the exercise of the basic freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression. The submission discusses the situation of CSOs, HRDs, journalists and bloggers, who face harassment, criminalisation, arbitrary arrests, searches of their homes and offices and reprisals for interacting with UN and OAS human rights institutions. The submission further examines the multiple ways in which dissent is stifled both in the streets and in the media, offline and online. 

    Djibouti (EN/FR): CIVICUS, Defend Defenders and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) submission describes how the government of Djibouti has patently ignored the 14 recommendations made during the second UPR cycle related to the protection of the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression. Instead, in the intervening period, authorities in Djibouti have continued their campaign against dissent, regularly detaining human rights defenders, journalists and trade union activists because of their criticism of the government or human rights activists.  

    Russia: CIVICUS and Citizens’ Watch address concerns regarding the adoption and application of several draconian laws that have resulted in the expulsion and closure of numerous CSOs and restrictions on the activities of countless others. The submission also lays out the increasing criminalisation and persecution of dissenting views by means of growing restrictions, in both law and practice, on the exercise of the fundamental freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly. 

    Turkmenistan: CIVICUS highlights restrictions to freedom of association in Turkmenistan including recent amendments to the 2014 Law on Public Associations which further limit CSOs’ ability to register, operate independently and receive funding from international sources. Additionally, we assess the use of the arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment of human rights defenders as well as unwarranted limitations to online and offline freedom of expression.

    Uzbekistan: CIVICUS, The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia and the International Partnership for Human Rights assess the conditions of freedom of association, assembly and expression in Uzbekistan. We highlight the lack of progress made in implementing recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle. It particular, we note that although there have been some notable improvements to the environment for civic space, the situation for human rights activists and journalists remains deeply constrained.

     

  • Leave no person with disabilities behind

    By Leave No One Behind Partneship and ADD International

    Pushpa Rani had pneumonia when she was eight years old, which left her extremely weak. Eventually, she lost all movement in her legs. Pushpa joined a women's self-help group, and later a disabled person's organisation, supported by Action on Disability and Development (ADD) International.

     

  • New digital security law a further blow to media freedom and free expression in Bangladesh

    • The Digital Security Act was passed despite protests from civil society and journalists
    • DSA  incorporates other legislation that has been systematically used to silence dissent
    • New law comes amid a growing, brutal crackdown on peaceful protests and dissent  

       

    • New Head of UN Human Rights needs to visit Bangladesh

      Joint letter to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet, on the deterorating human rights situation in Bangladesh

      Your Excellency:

      Congratulations on your new role as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. As you take up your new mandate, the undersigned organizations urge you to make Bangladesh a focus of your efforts in the coming months and to undertake an official visit to Bangladesh as soon as possible. It is our understanding that your predecessor, Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, was in advanced talks with the Government of Bangladesh regarding a visit to the country. We strongly urge you to resume that discussion and schedule a visit without delay.

      In your opening remarks to the 39th Session of the UN Human Rights Council on September 10, 2018, you rightly commended Bangladesh for its role hosting Rohingya refugees and for making significant development advancements. But you were also right to make it clear that Bangladesh’s human rights record in recent years has been deeply concerning. In addition to the crackdown on peaceful student protests and the violent anti-drug campaign that you referenced in your remarks—both of which warrant close attention—the Government of Bangladesh has also engaged in attacks against independent media and journalists, human rights defenders, and opposition figures. These abuses are further enabled by the recent passage of the Digital Security Act, [1] which criminalizes the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to freedom of association. Enforced disappearances continue to occur at an alarming rate (34 people were reportedly disappeared in September alone), [2] and reports of torture in custody continue to surface despite passage of the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act 2013. [3]

      In addition, the government is cracking down on political dissidents and opposition activists. The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) reports that, over the past two months, police have registered 3,736 cases, resulting in charges against 313,130 party leaders and activists. The BNP insists that all of these cases and charges are politically motivated; the Awami League Government disputes this characterization. The spree of criminal cases against opposition figures is being conducted in such a fashion that the police have filed several cases against opposition leaders who have died or have been living abroad for years. [4] In trials widely condemned as politically motivated, top opposition leaders have been sentenced to death or lengthy prison sentences prior to the upcoming general election, which is expected to take place in December 2018. [5]

      The UN Human Rights Committee noted concerns in its 2017 Concluding Observations regarding:

      • The “reported high rate of extrajudicial killings by police officers, soldiers and Rapid Action Battalion force members and at reports of enforced disappearances, as well as the excessive use of force by State actors”;
      • The absence of “ongoing investigations into cases of torture in the State party…[despite] information that torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement or military personnel is widespread in the State party during interrogations to extract confessions”; and
      • The “limitations on the rights of journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders and civil society organizations in the State party to exercise their right to freedom of opinion, expression and association”.

      These concerns were exhaustively raised by members of the UN Human Rights Council earlier this year during Bangladesh’s 3rd cycle Universal Periodic Review. Bangladesh failed to accept a number of key recommendations, including to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance; to issue a standing invitation to all UN Special Procedures; to amend or repeal laws that do not comply with international standards by restricting legitimate expression or association; and to fight against impunity by committing to investigate alleged human rights abuses by security forces.

      Although serious concerns have been raised by non-governmental organizations, as well as by UN bodies and UN Member States, there have been only four visits by UN Special Procedures mandate-holders in the last ten years. These were the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief (2016); the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women (2013); and a joint visit by the UN Independent Expert on Human Rights and Extreme Poverty and the UN Independent Expert on the Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation (2010). These are welcomed visits, and important mandates and issues for Bangladesh. But at this critical juncture, the Government of Bangladesh must grant broader access to UN Special Procedures.

      In addition to undertaking an official visit to Bangladesh yourself, we urge you to press the Government of Bangladesh to accept visit requests from the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders; the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression; the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Association; the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture; the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions; the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances; and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. These are the mandates that can most directly address many of the core issues raised by UN Member States during the UPR, the UN Human Rights Committee, and by you in your opening remarks to the UN Human Rights Council.

      Your office has a critical role to play. Bangladesh remains a close partner of the UN and particularly the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Bangladesh is also one of the largest contributors of military personnel to UN Peacekeeping missions. But it must also be a closer partner of the UN human rights mechanisms. In previous election cycles there has been a marked increase in violence and repression. Attention from your office and other UN human rights bodies can help reverse this trend. We are committed to working with you and your office, as well as with the Government of Bangladesh, to ensure that a visit can take place soon.

      Sincerely,

      1. 350.org
      2. Asian Human Rights Commission
      3. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
      4. Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL)V
      5. Association For Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)
      6. Сenter for Civil Liberties, Ukraine
      7. CIVICUS
      8. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), India
      9. Freedom Now
      10. Human Rights Concern, Eritrea
      11. Human Rights Defenders Network, Sierra Leone
      12. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
      13. Karapatan, The Philippines
      14. Lokataru Foundation, Indonesia
      15. Odhikar, Bangladesh
      16. Phenix Center for Economic Studies, Jordan
      17. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
      18. Sudanese Development Initiative (SUDIA), Sudan
      19. The Article 20 Network
      20. Transparency International
      21. World Organisation against Torture (OMCT)
      22. MARUAH, Singapore
      23. Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA)
      24. Citizen Congress Watch (CCW), Taiwan
      25. Uganda National NGO Forum

      1 See, Dhaka Tribune, “Bangladesh signs Digital Security Bill into Law,” October 8, 2018, available at, https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2018/10/08/president-signs-digital-security-bill-into-law;seealsoForum Asia, Digital Security Act English translation (2016), available at, https://www.forum- asia.org/uploads/wp/2016/08/Digital-Security-Act-English-09.03.2016.pdf.

      2 See,Odhikar “Human Rights Monitoring Report of September 2018”; see also, New Age, “Enforced Disappearances Double: Odhikar Report,” October 3, 2018, available athttp://www.newagebd.net/article/52199/enforced-disappearance-doubles-odhikar-report.

      3 According to data gathered by Odhikar, at least 125 persons were tortured to death by law enforcement agencies from January 2009 to May 2018.

      4 See e.g., Prothom Alo, "Police sue another dead man for sabotage," October 9, 2018, available at, https://en.prothomalo.com/bangladesh/news/184686/Police-sue-another-dead-man-for-sabotage.

      5 See e.g., NewAge Bangladesh, “Babar, Pintu, 17 others to die, Tarique, Harris, 17 others jailed for life,” October 10, 2018, available at, http://www.newagebd.net/article/52831/aug-21-grenade-attack-19-get- death-penalty-tariqe-among-17-life-term.

       

    • Perpetrators of violence against protesters and journalists in Bangladesh must be held accountable

      A global human rights group has called for police and ruling party supporters to be held accountable for their violent responses to peaceful student protests in Bangladesh. Thousands of students protesting poor road safety have been targeted with excessive force by police and brutal attacks reportedly from the student wing of the ruling party.

       

    • Photos: Lives rent asunder by climate change in Bangladesh

      In 2018, two global agreements - one focused on the protection of refugees and the other on migration - are in the final stages of negotiation between governments, under the auspices of the United Nations. Each offers a rare opportunity to protect migrants from one of the biggest sources of displacement today - climate change. Through these images GMB Akash presents stories of loss from among the around 18 million Bangladeshis who risk displacement as the sea moves inward, expected to submerge as much as 17% of the country’s land by 2050.

      See on: Hindustan Times 

       

    • Response to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights update

      38th Session of the Human Rights Council  
      Update of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 

      CIVICUS welcomes the High Commissioner’s final update and thanks him for his continued support for human rights defenders and for speaking the truth to power in this August room for the last four years. You have been the voice of the silenced and helped to ensure that the grievances of victims of human rights violations are echoed in this chamber.  For that we thank you.

      CIVICUS shares the High Commissioner’s concerns about civic space restrictions in Bangladesh, in particular threats and attacks against journalists from government-affiliated groups, security forces and religious extremists and the failure to bring perpetrators to justice.

      The government has used the Information and Communications Technology Act to punish critics and a proposed Digital Security Bill could be used to criminalize online expression and promote self-censorship. The right to freedom of peaceful assembly continues to be restricted including of activists protesting the recent extrajudicial killings.

      We are equally worried about the recent violent attacks on civil society and HRDs in Nicaragua.On 30 April, 323 national, regional and international organisations and networks, in a joint statement condemned the violent repression of the demonstrations held in Nicaragua against the social security reforms and demanded respect for the right to peaceful protest.

      Since then the repression and use of excessive and indiscriminate force have continued and resulted in a at least 170 deaths. The government should immediately put an end to all violent acts, engage in a genuine dialogue with civil society and accept requests to conduct an impartial investigation into the killings.

      We urge all states underscored in the High Commissioner’s report to take immediate measures to address persistent and widespread violations of the rights essential to civic space, including by allowing access to relevant UN Special Procedure mandate holders.

       

    • Right to protest and civic freedoms

      By Josef Benedict, civic space researcher at CIVICUS

      The right to peaceful assembly is a fundamental freedom and key pillar for civic space. When civic space is open, citizens and civil society organisations are able to organise, participate, and communicate without hindrance. They will also be able to claim their rights and influence the political and social structures around them. This can only happen when a state holds by its duty to protect its citizens and respects the right to protest.

      However, for many Bangladeshis going out on to the street to protest can be a terrifying experience. You could end being arbitrarily arrested, beaten up, face rubber bullets and tear gas. You could also be ill-treated by police and even prosecuted for organising or participating in a peaceful protest. Even after the protests end, you could face intimidation and surveillance.

      Read on New Age

       

    • Six countries added to watchlist of countries where civic freedoms are under serious threat

      • Bangladesh, Maldives, Cameroon, DRC, Guatemala, Nicaragua join global watchlist
      • Escalating rights violations include killings, attacks on protesters, media, opposition
      • Neighbours, international community must pressure governments to end repression

      Six countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa have been added to a watchlist of countries which have seen an escalation in serious threats to fundamental freedoms in recent weeks and months.

      The new watchlist released by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society across the globe, identifies growing concerns in Bangladesh,  Maldives, CameroonDemocratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Activists and civil society organisations in these countries are currently experiencing a severe infringement of civic freedoms, as protected by international law.

      Violations include brutal attacks by police on peaceful protests in Nicaragua and Bangladesh; the murder of human rights defenders in Guatemala; the killing of protesters and a brutal state campaign against activists and the political opposition in the DRC; and the prosecution of human rights defenders and journalists on fabricated charges in Cameroon, amidst an escalating civil conflict.

      “It is deeply concerning to see escalated threats to basic rights in these countries,” said Cathal Gilbert, CIVICUS Civic Space Research Lead.

      “It is crucial that these six governments wake up to their failure to respect international law and take swift action to respect their citizens’ most basic freedoms in a democratic society,” Gilbert said.

      “We also call upon neighbouring states and international bodies to do put pressure on these countries to end the repression.”

      Over the past year, authorities in Bangladesh have used repressive laws to target and harass journalists and human rights defenders, restrict freedom of assembly and carry out the enforced disappearances of opposition supporters. The human rights situation has deteriorated further ahead of national elections scheduled for late 2018. Members of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), the student wing of the ruling party Bangladesh Awami League (BAL), have attacked student activists, academics and journalists with impunity.

      In Nicaragua, at least 300 people have been killed since protests began in April 2018, with hundreds more kidnapped or missing. The demonstrations were initially sparked by regressive changes to the social security system but grew to include calls for President Daniel Ortega to resign in the wake of his brutal repression of peaceful protests. While large-scale marches have subsided in recent days, some continue amid a tense political situation as the Ortega government continues to silence critics despite agreements struck with international bodies, and an undertaking to allow an IACHR investigation into the violence. Attacks on protestors are perpetrated both by state forces and armed groups aligned with the government.

      This year, between January and July alone, at least 18 human rights defenders (HRDs) were killed in Guatemala. There were also two assassination attempts and 135 other attacks, with 32 of those aimed at women HRDs. In early August, United Nations Special Rapporteurs issued a statement raising the alarm at the spike in killings in 2018. Reports from Guatemala indicate that the space for civil society has worsened due to land disputes and actions by corporate interests, the source of targeted violence against specific groups of activists.

      Despite the announcement that Congolese president Joseph Kabila will not run for a third term, tensions are still high in the DRC, ahead of scheduled elections in December.  In recent months, protestors, youth movements, human rights defenders, journalists and the political opposition have all faced widespread state repression, including arrests. In June this year, CSOs and UN Special Rapporteurs expressed serious concerns about a planned new law that would give authorities power to dissolve non-governmental organisations (NGOs) over public order or national security concerns.

      In Maldives, a widespread crackdown on dissent began in February 2018 when a court ordered the release of opposition leaders. This decision led to the arbitrary arrest of judges, scores of opposition politicians and activists as well as the use of unnecessary force by police to disperse peaceful demonstrations. There are also documented cases of people being ill-treated in detention. With elections due on 23rd September 2018, civic space is likely to become increasingly contested. Already in May 2018, the Electoral Commission moved to bar four opposition leaders from running in the upcoming presidential elections.

      In Cameroon, an escalating conflict in the country’s Anglophone regions between armed separatists and the government has sparked a mounting humanitarian crisis. It began as protests in 2016, resulting in state repression of protests and the arrest and prosecution of protest leaders. The conflict intensified in recent months with killings and human rights violations committed by both sides. At least 100 civilians, 43 security officers and an unknown number of armed separatists have reportedly been killed, according to an International Crisis Group report. NGOs and human rights defenders have also been targeted.

      In the coming weeks, the CIVICUS Monitor will closely track developments in each of these countries as part of efforts to ensure greater pressure is brought to bear on governments. CIVICUS calls upon these governments to do everything in their power to immediately end the ongoing crackdowns and ensure that perpetrators are held to account.

      ENDS.

      For more information, please contact:

      Cathal Gilbert

      Grant Clark

       

    • The compromised state of civil society in Bangladesh

      Open contribution by Rezwan-ul-Alam

       

    • Thousands of Bangladesh garment workers fired for demanding better wages

      • Almost 5,000 workers producing clothes for international brands were sacked for participating in protests and strikes for improved pay
      • At least one person was killed, and hundreds injured after police used excessive force against protesters
      • Almost 100 have reportedly been arrested and charged for participating in labour actions

      The firing of almost 5,000 low-paid garment workers in Bangladesh in reprisal for participating in protests and strikes for higher wages is a clear violation of fundamental freedoms, global civil society alliance CIVICUS said today.

      Condemning the reported dismissals by factory bosses as disturbing, CIVICUS has called for the sacked workers to be reinstated immediately and for the charges against those arrested to be dropped.

      Last September, the government promised garment workers an increase in their minimum monthly wage from 8,000 taka (US$100). Workers walked out in protest on January 6 and held demonstrations demanding decent wages after rejecting this offer. During the protests, Bangladeshi police used excessive force including firing rubber bullets and tear gas, which left one worker dead and at least a hundred others injured. There have also been reports of widespread arrests.

      In an attempt to contain widespread anger over police violence as well as calls for further protests, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina appointed a tri-partite committee consisting of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturing and Exporters Association (BGMEA) representatives, trade union leaders and government ministers, address the issues. Although workers rejected the committee’s findings proposing minimal increases, on January 13 they returned to work in the face of union demands to end the strike and under threat of lockouts and further police repression.

      Although the tri-partite committee agreed that no action would be taken against the workers, many learned they were sacked after arriving at work to see notices bearing their names and images attached to factory gates.

      “These actions are clearly a retaliation by the companies against those speaking up and is an attempt to silence their voices,” said Josef Benedict, a CIVICUS Civic Space researcher.

      “The Bangladesh authorities must put to a stop to this, in accordance with their international human rights obligations and hold these companies accountable for their actions,” Benedict said. 

      The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights state that businesses must respect internationally recognised human rights, including the right to expression and peaceful assembly which are provided for under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). They should also refrain from reprisals against those exercising their civic freedoms, and protest against the business or its interests.

      Bangladesh is home to some 4,500 clothing factories employing 4.1 million workers, who have been fighting for a 16,000 taka (US$200) monthly minimum wage since 2016. Many have suffered unfair dismissals, brutal police violence and fabricated criminal cases for their involvement in protests and strikes. In most cases, there has been a lack of accountability.

      In early January 2017, about 20 global brands sourcing clothing manufacturing from Bangladesh, including H&M, Inditex, Gap, C&A, Next, and Primark, wrote to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina supporting a wage review and expressing their concerns that union leaders and workers’ rights activists were being targeted.

      Instead of sacking the workers for exercising their civic freedoms and demanding better wages, businesses should instead engage in dialogue with them and their representatives. Global garment brands sourcing from Bangladesh should also press these companies to reinstate these workers,” Benedict said.

      It is extremely worrying to hear reports that some workers have been arrested and charged in round ups by the police for their involvement in the protests. The authorities must release these workers immediately and drop all charges against them,” he said.

      The CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in countries across the globe, rates the space for civil society in Bangladesh as Repressed.

      ENDS

      For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

       

    • Time to Sign: Stand with students & activists in Bangladesh

      Bangladesh: Release and drop all charges against all those arbitrarily arrested and investigate police abuse

      Global civil society alliance CIVICUS is calling for your support and solidarity to demand the release of students and protesters who were arrested and charged over the last month in Bangladesh. On 15th August, Bangladesh was added to the CIVICUS Monitor’sWatch List, which means that there has been an escalation in serious threats to fundamental freedoms in recent weeks and months.

      Add your voice to the campaign to demand that the government reverse this trend, release all those arbitrarily arrested and investigate police abuses by sending the letter below to government authorities, and adding your voice on social media using #BangladeshProtests.

       

    • Time to Sign: Stand with students & activists in Bangladesh

      Bangladesh: Release and drop all charges against all those arbitrarily arrested and investigate police abuse

      Global civil society alliance CIVICUS is calling for your support and solidarity to demand the release of students and protesters who were arrested and charged over the last month in Bangladesh. On 15th August, Bangladesh was added to the CIVICUS Monitor’sWatch List, which means that there has been an escalation in serious threats to fundamental freedoms in recent weeks and months.

      Add your voice to the campaign to demand that the government reverse this trend, release all those arbitrarily arrested and investigate police abuses by sending the letter below to government authorities, and adding your voice on social media using #BangladeshProtests.

       

    • Time to Sign: Stand with students and activists in Bangladesh

      Bangladesh: Release and drop all charges against all those arbitrarily arrested and investigate police abuse

      Global civil society alliance CIVICUS is calling for your support and solidarity to demand the release of students and protesters who were arrested and charged over the last month in Bangladesh. On 15th August, Bangladesh was added to the CIVICUS Monitor’sWatch List, which means that there has been an escalation in serious threats to fundamental freedoms in recent weeks and months.

      Add your voice to the campaign to demand that the government reverse this trend, release all those arbitrarily arrested and investigate police abuses by sending the letter below to government authorities, and adding your voice on social media using #BangladeshProtests.


      3 actions you can take to stand with students and other activists:

      1. Sign and send letter to Prime Minister of Bangladesh

      To the Prime Minister of Bangladesh,
      H.E. Sheikh Hasina Wazed

      Bangladesh: Release and drop all charges against all those arbitrarily arrested and investigate police abuse

      Dear Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina,

      I am writing to express my concerns about serious violations of civic freedoms perpetrated during recent protests in Bangladesh. I urge your government to take immediate steps to address these issues in accordance with your international human rights obligations.

      Between 29 July to 15 August 2018 around a hundred individuals, mainly students were charged for unlawful assembly, rioting and other crimes under the Penal Code, Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act and the Special Powers Act. Those arrested were students from private universities or colleges who were involved in either the protests on road safety triggered by the killing of two teenagers by a speeding bus on 29 July 2018 or protests calling for reforms to the civil service quota system. Some were allegedly tortured or ill-treated in custody. Some students have been granted bail on 19 and 20 August. Many students are still in hiding and have not been able to attend classes. I am concerned by reports that they are being deprived from medical care following injuries they sustained while in detention.

      I am also concerned about reports that police used excessive force, including firing rubber bullets and tear gas on 4th August 2018 to disperse demonstrations in Dhaka which were triggered by the killing of two teenagers by a speeding bus on 29th July 2018. Some of the student protesters were also allegedly attacked by members of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) and Jubo League, the student and youth wing of the ruling Bangladesh Awami League (BAL) party.

      Scores of journalists were attacked while covering the protests, some of whom were later detained briefly by the police. At least four journalists from The Daily Star newspaper were reportedly beaten while at least seven photojournalists were injured in attacks in Jhigatala and Science Lab areas of the city on 5 August 2018. While some attackers wore helmets, the journalists identified some of their attackers as BCL members.

      I am also concerned about the arbitrary arrest of Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam who was taken from his home, just hours after he made comments on Al-Jazeera about protests in the city. He was subsequently charged under section 57 of Bangladesh’s Information Communications Technology Act a provision that has been frequently used to bring charges against critics, activists and other dissenting voices in Bangladesh. He has also alleged that he was tortured while in custody. He was denied bail three times in the lower court.

      In the last few months, human rights organisations have also documented attacks by the BCL against students protesting the civil service quota system, which reserves 30 percent of government jobs for children of freedom fighters from Bangladesh’s Liberation War in 1971. Academics and journalists supporting them have also been targeted.

      Therefore, I urge your government to take the following steps as a matter of priority:

      • Immediately and unconditionally release all protesters and activists who have been arbitrarily detained for exercising their human rights, in particular photographer Shahidul Alam, and drop all charges against them;
      • Carry out prompt, impartial, independent and efficient investigations into all complaints and reports of excessive use of force by the police, as well as attacks by non-state actors, against protesters and journalists, bring those responsible to justice and provide reparations to the victims;
      • Review and amend all laws that restrict freedom of expression, such as section 57 of the 2006 Information and Communication Technology Act;
      • Send a clear message to members of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) and other non-state actors that violence by them will not be tolerated;
      • Create a safe and enabling environment for activists, civil society and citizens to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly without intimidation, harassment, arrest or prosecution.

      I express my sincere hope that you will consider and implement these recommendations. 

      Sincerely, 

      Sign your name:

       

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      Yes

      You can also copy and paste the above letter and send directly to the below government officials, or write your own letter with demands and recommendations to: 

      Prime Minister's Office
      Email: 
      Salutation: Honourable Prime Minister

      Minister of Home Affairs 
      Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal 
      Email: 
      Salutation: Honourable Home Minister

      Inspector General of Police
      Mohammad Javed Patwary
      Email: 
      Salutation: Dear Inspector General

      And copies to: Political Affairs Advisor to Bangladesh
      Prime Minister H.T. Imam
      E-mail: 


      2. Share and show solidarity on social media

       

      Stand in solidarity with Bangladeshi protesters and journalists by sharing this infographic on social media using #BangladeshProtests and tagging the following diplomatic and government representatives. 


      3. Share campaign with your network


      Updates:

      Updates about the campaign to be made available here


      For more information, contact:

      Clementine de Montjoye – clementine.demontjoye[at]civicus.org 
      Josef Benedict – josef.benedict[at]civicus.org

       

    • United Nations adopts resolution on human rights on the internet

      CIVCUS welcomes the adoption by the Human Rights Council of a new resolution on human rights on the internet, particularly the resolution’s focus on internet shutdowns.

      The shutdown of internet access or access to social media has become a widespread tactic used by the authorities to quell protests or forms of online dissent. In the last year, the CIVICUS Monitor documented such tactics used in BangladeshChad, Ethiopia, India, Myanmar and Palestine, among other countries. The shutdowns significantly disrupt people’s ability to seek, receive or impart information online; in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, this has prevented people from obtaining essential information and services during the crisis. Such restrictions on access to the internet cannot be justified on public order or national security grounds.

      The adopted resolution strongly condemns the use of internet shutdowns to intentionally and arbitrarily prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online. It further mandates the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to study the trend in internet shutdowns and present findings to the Council next year.

      Over the last year, as participation has moved online, new tactics of online restriction have subsequently developed. We welcome that the resolution calls upon all States to refrain from and to cease online censorship. Given the increasing use by repressive governments of online attacks against human rights defenders and activists, and online surveillance, we call on States to ensure that measures offline or online for the protection of national security, public order and public health are in full compliance with international law obligations and respect the principles of lawfulness, legitimacy, necessity and proportionality.

      Given that the digital divide has proven one of the biggest challenges facing civil society participation over the past year, it is particularly relevant that the resolution calls upon all States to accelerate efforts to bridge digital divides while applying a human rights-based approach.

       

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