DSA goes against int’l rights treaty
DOT Desk: The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recommended over 11 months ago that the government scraps two sections and amends eight others of the Digital Security Act but the government said it will not scrap them and is reviewing the sections, reports The Daily Star.
Experts said the DSA has become the government’s and ruling party activists’ favourite tool to muzzle critics. Despite harsh criticism from the media, rights bodies, and experts, filing of cases under this law and arrests of journalists continue unabated. The OHCHR made the call as the sections concerned failed to meet the standard for upholding article 19 (3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which protects the right to freedom of opinion and freedom of expression. Law Minister Anisul Huq made it clear by saying that they have no plans to scrap the sections.
“Almost all countries across the world have laws like the Digital Security Act. The Digital Security Act has been formulated in Bangladesh to combat cybercrimes including hacking, and therefore, there is no question of scrapping the sections, let alone the law,” he said. More than 2,000 cases have been filed under the act, which came into force on October 1, 2018 The abuse of the law came to the fore again on early March 29 when Samsuzzaman Shams, a journalist of Bangla daily Prothom Alo, was picked up from his home hours after a case was filed against him under the law. Another DSA case was filed that night against Prothom Alo Editor Matiur Rahman and Shams. Shams was sent to jail the next day. He got out on bail on April 3. The High Court on April 2 granted a six-week anticipatory bail to Matiur.
UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk on March 31 called upon the Bangladesh authorities to immediately suspend the application of the DSA.
“My office has already provided detailed technical comments to assist with such a revision,” he said.
The OHCHR, in June last year, submitted its recommendations titled “OHCHR Technical Note to the Government of Bangladesh on Review of the Digital Security Act”.
Bangladesh has been a party to the ICCPR since 2000 and thus has obligations to uphold article 19 of the treaty.
Article 19 (2) says: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”
Article 19 (3) says: “The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 [article 19 (2)] of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; (b) For the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals.”