UN accuses Bangladesh of suppressing environmental activism | Environment News


The UN says the Digital Safety Act is getting used to punish criticism of presidency, together with its environmental insurance policies.

Dhaka, Bangladesh – Environmental activist Shahnewaz Chowdhury is at present out on bail. The 37-year-old was arrested in Might beneath the Digital Safety Act (DSA) for a Fb publish expressing his considerations a few coal energy venture in Banshkhali in southeastern Bangladesh.

Chowdhury, who hails from Gandamara in Banshkhali, had referred to as on the youth to “resist injustice” as he feared the affect of “the environmentally damaging” plant. He was accused of publishing “false and offensive” info and creating “chaos”, beneath the DSA.

“We demanded for an environmentally pleasant plant that may profit the group and never harm the atmosphere, and since I wrote on this challenge, I used to be arrested beneath Digital Safety Act and needed to go to jail for 80 days,” mentioned Chowdhury, who might withstand 10 years in jail if convicted for the offences he has been charged with beneath the regulation, which rights organisations have termed “draconian“.

The utmost punishment beneath the regulation is 14 years.

Prime Minister Shiekh Hasina’s authorities has defended the regulation, saying it’s obligatory to keep up order.

The federal government’s plan to fee a coal-fired energy plant within the nation’s ecologically fragile areas has confronted protests. A minimum of 12 staff and native individuals have been killed during the last six years by police fireplace throughout protests in opposition to the Banshkhali plant.

Demonstrations have additionally been held in opposition to one other giant coal-fired plant within the southwestern area of Rampal close to Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest.

The protests have prompted the federal government to label some activists “terrorists” after the DSA was enacted in 2018.

‘Finish the harassment’

The regulation has a provision for a jail time period of as much as 14 years for anybody who secretly data authorities officers or gathers info from a authorities company utilizing a pc or different digital machine. It additionally units related punishments for individuals who unfold “damaging propaganda” in regards to the nation’s 1971 battle of independence and its founding chief Sheikh Mujibur Rahman – father of Prime Minister Hasina.

Critics say the supply permits police to arrest journalists and confiscate their gear with out a court docket order, prompting the United Nations to accuse Bangladesh of utilizing the regulation to suppress environmental activism. It has referred to as on authorities to amend the Act and cease utilizing it to arrest individuals.

UN Particular Rapporteur on Human Rights and Local weather Change Ian Fry throughout a go to to Bangladesh final month referred to as for an finish to the harassment of local weather change activists.

“Numerous human rights our bodies, together with the UN, have lengthy raised considerations in regards to the ill-defined, broad provisions of the Digital Safety Act which were used to punish criticism of the federal government,” mentioned Fry.

“The harassment and threats and intimidation in opposition to local weather change human rights defenders and Indigenous peoples should finish,” Fry mentioned at a press convention on Thursday.

“The Digital Safety Act must be amended in order that local weather change human rights defenders and Indigenous peoples aren’t caught up in a broad definitional challenge associated to terrorism. These individuals are not terrorists.”

The DSA was additionally slammed by rights organisations similar to Human Rights Watch who mentioned authorities exploit it to harass and indefinitely detain journalists and different critics of the federal government.

Former UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has referred to as for an “overhaul” of the DSA previously.

Greater than 1,000 individuals have been detained beneath the DSA, based on native media figures.

“What we’re observing now’s that a few of the authorities places of work are aiding the companies in harassing the environmental activists,” mentioned environmental lawyer Rizwana Hasan.

“We’re seeing that the federal government companies are additionally now taking initiative to formally criminalise the environmental defenders,” Hasan instructed Al Jazeera.

Bangladesh’s regulation minister Anisul Huq mentioned in an interview with Al Jazeera late final 12 months that the DSA regulation can be reviewed and amended.

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