They made the call at a webinar orgranized by London-based ARTICLE 19
Human rights activists, lawyers, journalists and academics have demanded the immediate release of people who were arrested under the Digital Security Act, and the repeal of the act itself.
The demands were voiced on Sunday night in an online video conference titled “Digital Security Act: Threats to Democracy and the Rule of Law.” The video conference was organized by London-based rights organization ARTICLE-19.
Professor Ali Riaz from the department of politics and government at Illinois State University in the US said the digital security act leaves room for misinterpretation, which is ultimately leading to misuse of the law.
“This law has put the entire criminal justice system of the country in great danger. If anyone goes to file a case under section 21 of this Act, it is impossible for any police station not to accept the case,” he said.
Barrister Sara Hossain, Honorary Executive Director of BLAST and Advocate Supreme Court of Bangladesh, said: “Despite much criticism, the parliament has not taken any initiative to review the law. Although the High Court has acted suo moto in many other matters, this has been an exception.”
The National Human Rights Commission is silent on human rights violations under the law during the pandemic, she also said.
Sara called for the immediate bail of prisoners who are in custody under the law.
Journalist Mizanur Rahman Khan pointed out that the per capita income of the people of Bangladesh is around Tk1.5 lakh a year. However, under the DSA, a fine of Tk 3 crore has been imposed for committing some offenses for the second time. “It will take more than 200 years for a person to earn and pay off this amount of money.”
The accused are not threats to society or criminals, but mere individuals exercising their right to free speech in a democracy, the speakers said.
Supreme Court lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua said many teachers in the current situation see the law as a psychological barrier to online teaching. This fear is not unfounded, given the way teachers and students of various educational institutions are being sued under this law due to online expressions of opinion.
The event was facilitated by Faruq Faisel, regional director of ARTICLE 19 Bangladesh and South Asia.