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Press briefing on Bangladesh and Venezuela

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:  Ravina Shamdasani
Location: Geneva 
Date: 9 October 2018
Subject: (1) Bangladesh (2) Venezuela

1. Bangladesh

The Digital Security Act was on Monday signed into law in Bangladesh, despite wide-ranging concerns that its content and scope could seriously impede the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and opinion, as well as the rights to liberty of the person and to due process of law. The Act could have a severe impact on the work of journalists, bloggers, commentators and historians but also penalizes the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression by any other individual, including on social media.

The Act gives the police wide powers of search and arrest without warrant. Many of the offences in the Act are unbailable. This is of particular concern given concerns about due process in Bangladesh. 

The law as it stands does not meet Bangladesh’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including provisions to respect and protect the right to be free from arbitrary arrest under Article 9; to protection from interference with privacy and correspondence under Article 17, and to freedom of opinion and expression under Article 19.

We call on Bangladesh to urgently revise the Digital Security Act, to ensure that it is in line with international human rights law and that it provides for checks and balances against arbitrary arrest, detention, and other undue restrictions of the rights of individuals to the legitimate exercise of their freedom of expression and opinion. We stand ready to assist the Government.

2. Venezuela

We are deeply concerned at the continuing detention of 59 Colombian nationals who have been held without charge in Venezuela for more than two years. 

The detainees, who were picked up in separate security operations in late August and early September 2016, are detained in one cell at La Yerguara detention centre in Caracas. Conditions there are reported to be dire, with the detainees having insufficient access to food, water and medicine.

Many of the 59 men are believed to be sick. One prisoner, William Estremor, who was reported to have been seriously ill for several days, was, according to his lawyer, taken to a hospital emergency department on Monday. He was then reported to have been transferred to a small infirmary at premises in Caracas of the national intelligence services. We do not have a current update on his condition.

We urge the Venezuelan authorities to ensure this detainee receives the necessary medical care and that across the prison system, inmates are guaranteed access to adequate medical treatment and medicines.

The 59 Colombians were detained during security raids known as Operations for the Liberation of the People – OLPs – which the Government said were designed to break up criminal gangs and bring criminals to justice. The 59 were accused of being Colombian paramilitaries but to date, no evidence or charges have been brought against them and in November 2017, a Venezuelan judge ruled that they should be unconditionally released.

We call on the Venezuelan authorities to comply with this ruling and free them.

ENDS 

For more information or media requests, please contact Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org ) or Liz Throssell (+41 22 917 9466 / ethrossell@ohchr.org). 

Learn more about the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

2018 is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rights