Joint Statement by FIDH and Odhikar

Bangladesh: New Amendment to AntiTerrorism Act gags Freedom of Expression
Paris-Dhaka, 15 June 2013. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and
its member organization in Bangladesh, Odhikar, are deeply concerned by the adoption on
11 June by the Parliament, the Jatiya Sangsad, of the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill
2013 which widens the scope of sanctions provided in the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2009
(ATA) by approving that the Courts to accept videos, still photographs and audio clips
used in Facebook, twitter, Skype and other social media for trial of cases. Earlier in 2012
through another amendment the death penalty was introduced as the maximum penalty for
financing ‘terrorist’ activities.
The Bangladesh Parliament on 11 June 2013 passed the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2013
which would allow the Courts to accept videos, still photographs and audio clips used in
Facebook, twitter, Skype, and other social media for trial cases. Under this amendment the police
officer concerned will immediately inform the District Magistrates about the occurrence of a
crime that come under the purview of this Act and files cases against the persons or entity or
foreign national.
In the earlier Amendment to this Act in 2012 death penalty was introduced 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 the people through any terrorist
activities. This Amendment Bill as well as the earlier one were passed with virtually no
consultation with the civil society organisations and despite strong opposition from the
opposition members in the Parliament.
In a joint report in October 2010, entitled Bangladesh: Criminal justice through the prism of
capital punishment and the fight against terrorism, FIDH and Odhikar raised their long-standing
serious concerns that the vague definitions of ‘terrorists activities’ under the ATA open the
legislation to potential abuse and are incompatible with the principle of legality requiring that
criminal liability and punishment be limited to clear and precise provisions. This principle is
enshrined in Article 15 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),
which Bangladesh has ratified.

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