ALAIWAH is deeply concerned about the anti-terrorism ordinance approved by the Government of Bangladesh as reported in daily newspapers on 19 May, 2008.

This Ordinance has retained the provision that allows for the death penalty, life imprisonment, and prison sentences ranging from three to 20 years along with pecuniary measures against offenders depending on the gravity of offences.

The government has defined an “act of terrorism” across a broader spectrum, including any act that poses a threat to the sovereignty, unity, integrity or security of Bangladesh or creates panic among the general masses or obstructs official activities.

According to the Ordinance, terrorist activity is defined as a person killing another, inflicting serious injuries, detaining or kidnapping, or causing loss of property to any person, as well as using or keeping any explosive and flammable materials, firearms or any kind of chemical substances in his or her possession.

The law also states that those who finance terrorist groups will be tried under this ordinance and will be punished with a minimum of three years’ imprisonment and a maximum of 20, along with a financial penalty.

Sheltering a terrorist is punishable by a maximum of five years’ imprisonment. Anyone who carries informational material or broadcasts in support of an outlawed party can be imprisoned for a minimum of two years and a maximum of seven, along with a financial penalty.

ALAIWAH believes this law will engender abuses and will serve as grounds for the persecution of political opposition, human rights defenders, trade unionists and other activists. The broadness of the definition of terrorism in the text of the ordinance will provide unrestricted power to the executive branch of the state and will restrain the fundamental freedom of the people. Some of the offences mentioned in the text can be tried under the existing penal code.

Moreover, it is alarming that the Ordinance is to be promulgated by the military-backed government without any discussion in Parliament and without making public the draft ordinance. In the past, this type of ordinance has largely been used in violating rights rather than against terrorists or terrorism.

Implementing the law without thorough scrutiny and public support will essentially be an anti-people act in the name of protecting the “integrity”, “solidarity”, “security” and “sovereignty” of the country.