Responding to the thematic report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Humanists International’s Advocacy Officer, Lillie Ashworth, gave a statement highlighting the plight of humanist human rights defenders, who “speak out against injustice and advocate for secularism, democracy and freedom from religious dogma, often from within the confines of an ultra-conservative society.”
She raised the case of Bangladeshi secular blogger Asad Noor, who was forced into hiding after being accused under Bangladesh’s Digital Security Act 2018 (DSA) for ‘defaming Islam’ in a Facebook video. Noor has received death threats, and members of the police have detained his family, in an attempt to silence him.
She also reminded the Council of the cases of persecuted poet Ashraf Fayadh, who continues to pay the price for his poetry through a sentence of 8-years imprisonment and 800 lashes, and Saudi Arabian women’s rights activists Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sadah and Mayaa al-Zahrani, who remain in arbitrary detention. Fellow advocate for equal rights for women, Loujain Al-Halthoul, was released on a suspended sentence in February, but remains subject to a 5-year travel ban.
The statement ended by reminding Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia of their “moral and legal obligation to uphold the rights of all imprisoned and persecuted human rights defenders”.