OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani. Photo: UN
The Digital Security Act was on Monday signed into law in Bangladesh, despite wide-ranging concerns that its content and scope could seriously impede the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and opinion, as well as the rights to liberty of the person and to due process of law.
The Act could have a severe impact on the work of journalists, bloggers, commentators, and historians but also penalizes the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression by any other individual, including on social media.
The Act gives the police wide powers of search and arrest without warrant. Many of the offences in the Act are unbailable. “This is of particular concern given concerns about due process in Bangladesh,” said Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
The law as it stands does not meet Bangladesh’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including provisions to respect and protect the right to be free from arbitrary arrest under Article 9; to protection from interference with privacy and correspondence under Article 17, and to freedom of opinion and expression under Article 19.
“We call on Bangladesh to urgently revise the Digital Security Act, to ensure that it is in line with international human rights law and that it provides for checks and balances against arbitrary arrest, detention, and other undue restrictions of the rights of individuals to the legitimate exercise of their freedom of expression and opinion. We stand ready to assist the Government,” the UN spokesperson said.