Rights watchdogs call for repealing Anti-Terrorism Act, amendmentAdmin
Paris-based human rights watchdog the International Federation for Human Rights and its member organisation in Bangladesh, Odhikar, on Thursday demanded repeal of the Anti-Terrorism Act and a bill passed by parliament on February 16 amending the act.
In a joint statement, the organisations said that the amendment to the act would further undermine compliance with international human rights standards.
They also demanded a comprehensive review of existing legislation to ensure their compliance with international standards and laws and for promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedom while addressing terrorism.
The watchdogs in a press statement on Thursday expressed their deep concern over the adoption of the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill on February 16 by the Jatiya Sangsad, widening the scope of sanctions provided in the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2009 by approving death penalty as the maximum penalty for financing terrorist activities.
Before the amendment, the ATA 2009 stipulated that the offence of financing acts of terrorism shall be punishable by not more than 20 years and not less than three years of imprisonment.
The Amendment Bill also retains the death penalty as the maximum penalty for terrorist activities.
It also provided scope to prohibit the use of Bangladeshi land for the conduct of any terrorist activities inside the country or against other countries, all types of illegal arms and explosives, and the creation of ‘panic’ among people through any terrorist activities.
The Amendment Bill was passed with virtually no consultation with, and despite strong opposition from, Bangladeshi civil society groups.
‘When the Anti-Terrorism Ordinance was first promulgated by the military-backed Caretaker Government, we raised concerns regarding its potential for abuse, which proved to be true as we have witnessed a trend of persistent criminalisation of popular dissents and the tendency to reduce complex social, economic, political and cultural grievances into a purely criminal matter,’ said Adilur Rahman Khan, Secretary of Odhikar.
‘The Amended Bill as it stands now will be more repressive and by its very nature might turn into a nightmare of abuse and violence jeopardizing social and political stability, instead of strengthening human security.’
‘Punishing the financing of terrorist activities by death goes against the general tendency to restrict capital punishment to only the most serious crimes pending its eventual abolition,’ said Souhayr Belhassen, the FIDH President.
‘The government should make sure that any measures it takes to combat terrorism comply with all of its obligations under international law, in particular international human rights law, refugee law, and humanitarian law, keeping in mind that for any counter-terrorism strategies to be effective, they must strengthen, rather than weaken, the rule of law,’ the statement said.
FIDH and Odhikar called on Bangladesh government to ensure that genuine and broad-based consultations are held with the public, human rights defenders, and other relevant stakeholders to address the problem of terrorism without reducing the complex social, economic, political and cultural grievances into a purely criminal matter.
They also called for extending an invitation for a country visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.