International civil society organisations engaged in human rights and sustainable development issues have written an open letter to Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid and National Human Rights Commission Chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque on the recently approved draft of the Digital Security Bill.
In the letter, the organisations expressed concern that the Bangladesh Digital Security Act2018 fails to protect the right to freely express opinions on policies and the actions of decision makers.
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Both Article 29 of the Constitution of Bangladesh and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights allow the imposition of restrictions on the right to freedom of expression only in very limited and clearly defined circumstances, the letter reads.
The organisations recommended that the bill’s provisions be carefully considered from a constitutional and international law standpoint.
They added that the government would greatly benefit from engagement with Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, who could advise on the permissible limits on the freedom of expression under international law.
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They further urged the Bangladesh government to seek assistance from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights(UNHCR) on measures to strengthen the protection and promotion of human rights in the country in line with constitutional and international standards. .
Signatories to the letter include the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Asian Human Rights Commission, CIVICUS , International Federation for Human Rights , Human Rights Watch, Odhikar, People’s Watch , Robert F Kennedy Human Rights and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)