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Bangladesh
27.05.21
Urgent Interventions

Bangladesh: Arbitrary detention and subsequent release on bail of journalist Rozina Islam

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

BGD 002 / 0521 / OBS 062
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment /
Release on bail
Bangladesh
May 27, 2021

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bangladesh.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary detention and subsequent release on bail of Ms. Rozina Islam, a senior investigative reporter for the newspaper Prothom Alo, who has reported on cases of government corruption, including alleged mismanagement and acts of bribery by officials of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in their handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

On May 17, 2021, Rozina Islam went to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in Dhaka to attend a meeting with the Secretary of the Ministry’s Health Services Division. Officials of the Ministry held her for more than five hours and accused her of taking pictures of official documents containing sensitive information at the office of the Secretary’s personal secretary. While she was being held, Rozina Islam was denied access to a doctor, even though she felt unwell and fainted.

Later the same day, Rozina Islam was taken to Shahbagh Police Station of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, where the Deputy Secretary of the Ministry’s Health Service Division, Dr. Md. Shibbir Ahmed Osmani, filed a case against her on charges of “theft” and “possession of items of theft” (Sections 379 and 411 of the Penal Code) and “disclosing information, documents or other articles relating to international relations” and “disclosure of information, documents or other articles protected from disclosure” (Sections 3 and 5 of the Official Secrets Act of 1923). If charged and convicted under the Official Secrets Act, Ms. Islam could face up to 14 years in prison or the death penalty.

On May 18, 2021, Rozina Islam appeared before the Dhaka Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court. Magistrate Mohammad Jasim ordered her detention at the Kashimpur Central Jail, where she is currently detained.

On May 20, 2021, the Dhaka Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court’s decision over Rozina Islam’s bail petition was postponed until May 23, 2021, as the prosecutor requested more time to present further evidence against Rozina Islam.

On May 23, 2021, the Dhaka Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court granted bail to Rozina Islam. She was released on a 5,000 Taka (approximately 48 Euros) bail and on the condition that she surrenders her passport. The next hearing in her case is scheduled for July 15, 2021.

The Observatory condemns the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of journalist Rozina Islam and expresses grave concern over the misuse of the Penal Code and the Officials Secrets Act to restrict Rozina Islam’s right to freedom of expression. The Observatory further condemns the escalating crackdown on human rights defenders and freedom of expression in the country.

The Observatory urges the authorities to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Rozina Islam and to put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against all human rights defenders in Bangladesh.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Bangladesh, urging them to:

i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Ms. Rozina Islam and all other human rights defenders in Bangladesh;

ii. Put an end to all act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ms. Rozina Islam and all other human rights defenders in Bangladesh, and ensure that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals in all circumstances;

iii. Ensure an enabling legal, institutional and administrative environment that effectively guarantees the right to freedom of expression, as enshrined in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Addresses:

  • Ms. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Email: pm@pmo.gov.bd
  • Professor Dr.Gowher Rizvi, Adviser to the Prime Minister (International Affairs), Bangladesh. Email: advinternational@pmo.gov.bd
  • Mr. Asaduzzaman Khan, State Minister for Home Affairs of Bangladesh. Email: stateminister@mha.gov.bd
  • Mr. Anisul Huq, Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs of Bangladesh, Email: minoflaw@law.com
  • Md. Shahriar Alam, State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh. Email: fm@mofa.gov.bd
  • Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Bangladesh, E-mail: chief@bdcom.com or supremec@bdcom.com
  • Mr. Amin Uddin, Attorney General for Bangladesh, Email: aminuddin1971@gmail.com
  • H.E. Mr. Abdul Hannan, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, E-mail: mission.bangladesh@ties.itu.int
  • Embassy of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh in Brussels, Belgium, Email: bdootbrussels@skynet.be


Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Bangladesh in your respective country as well as to the EU diplomatic missions or embassies in Bangladesh.

***

Geneva-Paris, May 27, 2021

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:


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