UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Bachelet also expresses serious concern on cartoonist Kishore’s detention on similar charges that Mushtaq faced
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has urged the government of Bangladesh to review the controversial Digital Security Act following the death of writer Mushtaq Ahmed on Thursday.
She also asked the authorities of Bangladesh to ensure its investigation into the death in custody of writer Mushtaq Ahmed is prompt, transparent, and independent, according to her office in Geneva on Monday.
Mushtaq Ahmed died on 25 February after he was transferred to a prison hospital for treatment. He had spent nine months in pre-trial detention for publishing an article and sharing Facebook posts critical of the government’s Covid-19 response. The government has announced it will investigate Mushtaq’s death.
“There needs to be an overhaul of the Digital Security Act under which Ahmed was charged – and all those detained under this Act for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and opinion must be released,” High Commissioner Bachelet said.
She expressed serious concern at allegations that another man detained on similar charges, cartoonist Ahmed Kishore, has been subjected to torture or other ill treatment.
🇧🇩 #Bangladesh: @MBachelet urges the Government to ensure investigation into the death in custody of writer #MushtaqAhmed is prompt, transparent & independent. All those detained under the Digital Security Act for #FreeSpeech must be released. Read 👉 https://t.co/m7WiIXYEBt pic.twitter.com/XMBArz3L09March 1, 2021
She reminded the authorities of their obligation to promptly and effectively investigate the claims and to ensure his safety and well-being.
“The government must ensure that its investigation into Ahmed’s death is prompt, transparent, and independent, and that any allegations of ill-treatment of other detainees are also immediately investigated,” Bachelet said.
Allegations of torture and ill-treatment by the Rapid Action Battalion have been a long-standing concern. The UN Committee Against Torture in 2019 recommended the government commission an independent inquiry into allegations that members of the unit have carried out torture, arbitrary arrests, unacknowledged detention, disappearances and extrajudicial killings as a matter of routine policy, and to ensure that the personnel conducting the inquiry receive effective protection from harassment or intimidation.
The high commissioner also expressed concern at reports that police had allegedly used excessive force during protests demanding justice over Mushtaq’s death - 35 people have been reportedly injured and seven arrested. Another activist, Ruhul Amin has also reportedly been arrested under the Digital Security Act for a post on Facebook over Mushtaq’s death.
“Various UN Human Rights bodies have long raised concerns about the ill-defined, overly broad provisions of the Digital Security Act that have been used to punish criticism of the government,” she said. “Bangladesh urgently needs to suspend the application of the Digital Security Act and conduct a review of its provisions to bring them in line with the requirements of international human rights law. My office stands ready to continue its dialogue with the authorities in this regard.”