International Humanist and Ethical Union
UN Human Rights Council, 39th Session (10th – 28th September 2018)
We commend Bangladesh for agreeing to repeal Section 57 of the Communications and Technology Act; but are deeply disappointed that Germany’s recommendation of repealing or amending Penal Code articles related to defamation was rejected. Section 295A of the penal code states that any person who has “deliberate” or “malicious” intent to “hurt religious sentiments” can be imprisoned; this has been used in practice to prosecute and imprison atheist and secularist activists.
We welcome Bangladesh’s acceptance of the recommendation to “publicly commit” to ensuring that journalists and bloggers, amongst others, are able to carry out their activities without fear of arrest or retribution.
This is desperately needed, given it is not in keeping with the Government’s track record:
Since the violent killing of secular bloggers and writers began in 2013, Bangladeshi authorities have repeatedly made statements and taken actions implying that the responsibility for avoiding such attacks lay with the victims. It arrested bloggers, set up a committee to track bloggers who made allegedly derogatory remarks about Islam, and publicised an email address where complaints about alleged ‘blasphemous’ content could be submitted.
In April 2016, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that it was not acceptable to write things which hurt religious sentiments, stating that in any cases of “uncivilized attitude, the government wouldn’t take the responsibility.”
Sadly, since Bangladesh submitted its report, freethinking writer and politician, Shahzahan Bachchu was shot dead near his village home at Kakaldi. We can add his name to a list of secularists, freethinkers, humanists and rationalists who have been brutally murdered or attacked by extremists since the last UPR:
Ahmed Rajib Haider, Washiqur Rahman, Niloy neel, Ananta Bijoy Das, Faisal Arepin Dipan, Avijit Roy, Nazimuddin Samad, Asif Mohiuddin, Zafar Iqbal, Rafida Ahmed and Tutul.
We urge the authorities to investigate Bachchu’s death in line with its commitment to investigate all cases of murder and violence against journalists and bloggers and bring the perpetrators to justice.
 A/HRC/39/12, §147.75
 A/HRC/32/NGO/121, §66
 A/HRC/39/12, §147.89
'UPR statement on Bangladesh', Humanists International