Two distinguished human rights activists who’ve tracked extrajudicial killings and disappearances in Bangladesh have been sentenced on Thursday to 2 years in jail, elevating alarm a couple of new escalation in quashing dissent.
The Dhaka Cyber Tribunal, a court docket within the capital metropolis, discovered Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan responsible of spreading misinformation underneath the nation’s info know-how act. The legislation grants wide-ranging powers of arrest and prosecution when coping with something the federal government finds defamatory.
It was the newest instance of a widespread marketing campaign by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to make use of the judiciary, amongst different establishments that she has largely captured in her 14 years on the helm, to harass and lavatory down dissenting voices as she corporations her grip over the nation of 170 million forward of the following election. The nation’s courtrooms are crowded with members of the opposition, activists and journalists enmeshed in an more and more Kafkaesque judicial system.
The case in opposition to Mr. Khan and Mr. Elan, leaders of the human rights group Odhikar, stems from a fact-finding report by their group a couple of brutal episode a decade in the past in Dhaka. The report, launched in 2013, discovered that the police had dedicated grave abuses in clearing a rally organized by a hard-line Islamist group.
The group, Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh, had introduced town to gridlock in Might of that yr with a protest in opposition to feedback and cartoons it thought of offensive to the Prophet Muhammad. In response, the police staged a late-night crackdown, reducing off electrical energy and unleashing violence. Opposition events alleged a loss of life toll within the a whole bunch, whereas stories in worldwide information media estimated between a dozen and 50 individuals. Odhikar’s report mentioned it had discovered the names of 61 individuals who have been killed.
Quickly after the report’s launch, Ms. Hasina’s authorities detained each the activists, holding Mr. Khan for 62 days and Mr. Elan for 25 days and calling their report distorted and defamatory underneath the nation’s info know-how legislation. Ms. Hasina’s officers maintained that nobody was killed in the course of the operation, and she or he instructed the Parliament that members of Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh had faked deaths “through the use of pink dye.”
In a joint letter, greater than 30 worldwide human rights organizations, together with Human Rights Watch and Amnesty Worldwide, known as the conviction of the 2 activists “retaliation for his or her work documenting human rights violations in Bangladesh” and requested for his or her launch.
The organizations mentioned that whereas the federal government had waged a seamless marketing campaign of harassment in opposition to the activists and Odhikar — together with blocking entry to funds and never renewing the group’s registration — the 2013 case was revived just lately after america imposed sanctions on officers of the Fast Motion Battalion, the elite paramilitary pressure that’s accused of many human rights abuses. Bangladesh officers have blamed stories by human rights organizations similar to Odhikar for bringing about such sanctions.
“Human rights defenders must be allowed to conduct their needed and vital work with out worry of harassment, intimidation and reprisals,” the joint letter mentioned. “As an alternative of prosecuting and punishing those that doc and expose human rights violations, the Authorities ought to examine and maintain the perpetrators of those violations accountable.”
The federal government of Bangladesh, in an announcement, known as Odhikar “a noncompliant and politically biased entity with confirmed report of circulating misinformation” and mentioned the judiciary “decides issues earlier than them based mostly on proof and in accordance with the legislation.”