Legal experts, activists oppose Dhaka’s anti-terror ordinance

June 16th, 2008 - 11:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, June 16 (IANS) Human rights activists and legal experts in Bangladesh have opposed the new stringent anti-terrorism law, which makes a vast array of crimes non-bailable offences and liable to death penalty and life imprisonment, saying that it could be misused to settle political scores. Criminal law expert and human rights activist Shahdeen Malik said there was no need for a fresh law and that offenders could be prosecuted under existing laws.

“The more criminal laws a society has, the more barbaric it becomes. In the last few decades, we have enacted more criminal laws than were necessary and another criminal law will not serve any purpose except for giving the law enforcement agencies another weapon to misuse and abuse and harass citizens,” he said.

Promulgated by President Iajuddin Ahmed, the Anti-Terrorism Ordinance 2008 that was enforced last week empowers Bangladesh Bank to freeze the accounts of a suspected terror financier. The provision of death penalty has been provided for terror financing and staging murder to create panic and jeopardise the country’s sovereignty.

Anyone resorting to murder, kidnapping or damaging property to create panic among the people and jeopardise the country’s security by using explosives, arms and chemicals, will be charged with committing terrorist offence.

The ordinance also provides the maximum punishment of seven years of imprisonment with fines for a member or supporter of an outlawed organisation.

“There are a number of laws with provisions of death sentence for almost 100 criminal offences and one does not know how large is the number of offences for which life imprisonment has been provided,” Malik was quoted as saying by the Daily Star newspaper.

Human rights activist and barrister Sara Hossain also questioned the necessity of enacting the Anti-Terrorism Ordinance 2008 since similar laws enacted earlier could not play any positive role in combating terrorism.

Bangladesh has, since its inception in 1971, been fighting militancy of both the Maoist and Islamist variety, wherein the role of the state has been widely commented upon.

A gunfight was reported last week between the Left extremists of the Sarbahara Party and the elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), causing casualties. There have also been reports of Islamist militants killing the Maoists.

The more urgent problem facing the government is Islamist militancy gaining momentum since 2001, during the parliamentary elections that coincided with the terror attacks in the US and the campaign that followed in Afghanistan.

A report released last week by the non-government Bangladesh Enterprises International (BEI) said the proscribed Jama

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