A Joint Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission & CIVICUS

26 March 2024

CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society organisations and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) are concerned about the failure of the Bangladesh government in accepting key recommendations related to civic space as part of its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council. This decision highlights the government’s lack of commitment to adhere to its international human rights obligations and its unwillingness to undertake the necessary reforms to improve fundamental freedoms in the country.

In November 2023, the UN Human Rights Council undertook a review of Bangladesh’s human rights record. 301 recommendations were made by UN member states including on improving civic space. However, Bangladesh only accepted 211 recommendations and noted the rest. The adoption of Bangladesh’s UPR review took place on 25 March 2024.

Among the recommendations the government did not accept were calls to amend of repeal of the Cyber Security Act, by 15 countries. The Cyber Security Act passed in September 2023 retains most of the repressive language of the previous draconian Digital Security Act used to criminalise thousands of online critics including activists and journalists. 

The government also did not accept recommendations to establish an independent monitoring and investigation mechanism to address allegations of human rights violations committed by police and military personnel and to accept visits by UN special procedures.

“It is disappointing that the Bangladesh government has failed to accept recommendations to review the draconian Cyber Security Act, a law which the UN has said threatens the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression. Further, the governments reluctancy to establish an independent mechanism to investigate abuses by security personnel highlights the culture of impunity in the country,” said CIVICUS.

On a positive note, the government has accepted seven recommendations to ensure that human rights defenders, journalists and civil society have a safe and enabling environment and can operate freely without fear of reprisals. It also accepted recommendations to investigate, hold accountable and prosecute, as appropriate, members of security forces and others who have committed human rights violations and abuses.

“If the government is serious about protecting human rights defenders and civil society it should start by quashing the two-year conviction of human rights defenders Adilur Rahman Khan and Nasiruddin Elan, ending the judicial harassment Nobel Laureate Mohammad Yunus and halt the targeting of activists and journalists including those in exile. It should also investigate police abuses during recent protests by the political opposition, garment workers and others and bring the perpetrators to justice”, said the Asian Human Rights Commission.

The CIVICUS Monitor in December 2023 downgraded Bangladesh’s civic space to ‘closed,’ its worst rating. The downgrade is the result of a massive government crackdown on opposition politicians and independent critics in the run-up to national elections in January 2024.

Document ID :AHRC-JST-001-2024
Countries : Bangladesh
Date : 26-03-2024