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Bangladesh: UN human rights experts condemn killing of bloggers critical of extremism

GENEVA (13 May 2015) – “The recent killing of three bloggers in Bangladesh is an alarming signal of the deterioration of the space for freedom of expression in the country,” the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression, David Kaye, and on extrajudicial executions, Christof Heyns, warned today. The three journalists had been strong promoters of free expression and critical of fundamentalism of all kinds.

According to reports, Ananta Bijoy Das, who wrote for a website promoting ‘science, rationalism, secularism, freethinking, human rights, religious tolerance, and harmony amongst all people in the globe,’ was hacked to death in the city of Sylhet on Tuesday 12. In February, the blogger Avijit Roy was killed and his wife seriously injured in a similar attack while in Dhaka. A month later, another blogger, Washiqur Rahman, was also killed in the Bangladeshi capital.

The UN Special Rapporteurs called for a prompt and thorough investigation of these cases, stressing that “it is vital to ensure the identification of those responsible for these horrendous crimes, as well as those who may have masterminded the attacks.”

“These recurrent murders are reprehensible in and of themselves, and they exert a chilling effect with impact far beyond the direct victims,” noted Mr.  Kaye. “Attacks against writers like Mr. Bijoy Das affect the society as a whole.”

“Given the very public nature of these horrendous crimes targeting voices critical of extremism, it is very important that authorities publicly condemn the crimes and emphasize the importance of free speech online and offline,” he added.

States are under the obligations to provide, through judicial or other means, effective protection of individuals and groups who may be subject to extra-legal, arbitrary or summary executions, Mr. Heyns noted.

The Special Rapporteurs urged the Bangladeshi authorities to consider specific initiatives to prevent the recurrence of attacks against writers and activists. This should include not only the provision of particular physical protections to those who are potential targets for violence, but also open public debate challenging extremist views of all kinds.

David Kaye (USA) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in August 2014 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/OpinionIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns (South Africa), is a director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa and Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Pretoria, where he has also directed the Centre for Human Rights, and has engaged in wide-reaching initiatives on human rights in Africa. He has advised a number of international, regional and national entities on human rights issues. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Executions/Pages/SRExecutionsIndex.aspx

The UN Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page – Bangladesh: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/BDIndex.aspx

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Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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