Human Rights in Bangladesh
Briefing Series on the Shrinking Space for Civil Society
Please join the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for a briefing on the human rights situation in Bangladesh.
In February of this year, Rafida Bonya Ahmed and her husband Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-American secular blogger, were riding a rickshaw home from a book fair in Dhaka when they were ambushed by attackers wielding machetes. Roy was killed while Ahmed survived with serious wounds. Three other bloggers and a publisher have been killed since then: Oyasiqur Rahman in March, Ananta Bijoy Das in May, Niloy Neel in August and Faisal Arefin Dipan in October.
These assassinations are but one element of Bangladesh’s deteriorating human rights situation, in which the undermining of civil and political rights and religious freedom is of particular concern. Protests against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Awami League party have been shut down, critical views censored, and their authors arrested or sometimes disappeared. Two political opposition leaders were executed in recent days, following death sentences by a controversial war crimes tribunal criticized for lack of due process. The violent extremists who have targeted religious groups, foreigners, and secular activists, including Ahmed and Roy, remain at large. With reports that terrorist groups may have a foothold in Bangladesh, a claim the government rejects, the heightened sensitivity and tension have engendered a hostile environment for civil society operations, and in turn, fostered self-censorship.
Our panelists will draw from their expertise and personal experiences to provide insights about the human rights situation in Bangladesh, and share what the U.S. government, and especially the Congress, can do to ensure Bangladesh addresses these troubling trends in a manner consistent with its obligations to respect and protect human rights.
The briefing will be open to members of Congress, congressional staff, the interested public and the media. For any questions, please contact Dan Aum (for Rep. McGovern) at 202-225-3599 or Daniel.Aum@mail.house.gov or Carson Middleton (for Rep. Pitts) at 202-225-2411 or Carson.Middleton@mail.house.gov.
Rafida Bonya Ahmed, writer, activist and widow of Avijit Roy
Sahar Chaudhry, Senior Policy Analyst, U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom
Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Director, Free Expression Programs, PEN American Center
Bharath Gopalaswamy, Director, South Asia Center, Atlantic Council
Michael De Dora, Director, Office of Public Policy, Center for Inquiry
Congressman James P. McGovern, Co-Chair, Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission
Congressman Joseph R. Pitts, Co-Chair, Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission