Syria in Review : A Report on The Country’s Education

By Rasha Alkalla

Education
“The Lost Generation “

There are millions of children currently
homeless in the world because of armed conflict, violence and war, and
their plight has been highlighted on World Refugee Day.
These children often hold the title of “Lost Generation”, they face the
risk of losing the simplest of happiness and quiet childhood, such as
education
“Education is the best thing in life, A large number of Syrian refugee
children still do not have access to education despite the efforts of
Governments and United Nations agencies.

*The Education Challenge
During interviews and focus group discussions in Lebanon, 66% of  a pool of
80 children questioned about education said, they did not go to school. If
the situation does not improve significantly, Syria may risk eventually
reaching a generation that has received a poor degree of education.
In the face of this, UNICEF led the development of strategy entitled
“An Unwasted Generation”. The strategy aims to improve children’s
access to quality education and strengthen the protection environment
for children. It also seeks to expand national absorptive capacity and
access to education and protection for host communities, both within
Syria and in neighboring countries, by linking humanitarian and
development responses. Given the pressure on public school systems,
the strategy also aims to significantly expand formal education in
traditional locations, as well as non-formal education.

*The Scope of the problem
United Nations agencies, working in support of the Ministry of
Education, aim to increase the number of Syrians enrolled in public
schools more than threefold by the end of 2013, but even if this goal is
achieved, approximately 200,000 Syrian children may remain without
education.

*Long absences from school
The crisis in Syria, the journey into exile and the transition to a new life
have led to the loss of months and years of schooling for many
Syrian refugee children. Some have lost the incentive to start anew,
especially if this would involve a low school enrolment rate. A Syrian
assistant teacher at Zaatari Camp said he feared that many of the
children in Jordan might have ‘lost the spirit of education.’
In Jordan, no child who has been absent from school for more than
three years is entitled to formal education.

*In-school treatment
For many refugee children, school is a safe place where they can
learn new things and make friends. School helps them regain part of
their natural life and set goals for the future. Parents and children have
talked about teachers ‘ strong support and kindness and giving them
extra attention and assistance to Syrian students
Some fathers also reported that teachers abused children verbally and
physically. Many children in Lebanon said that their teachers beat them
in the classroom and they told us bad words.

*Unable to cover costs
UNHCR and UNICEF cover expenses for all Syrians, as well as a
small number of vulnerable children and Lebanese returnees. UNICEF
and UNHCR are also providing school uniforms, books, bags and
stationery to Syrian refugee children in Lebanon and Jordan, as
permitted by the scope of the resources.

*Means of transportation and distance
There are additional problems facing children who can find a place at
school. Discussions with parents and children indicate that
transportation is a major constraint, with distance and safety
considerations causing a large number of children to remain without
education.
Innovative programs to help children reach school safely. In Mafraq,
Jordan, Syrian fathers in three schools set up a special  drop-off
systems. Over the past school year, 100 children have benefited from the
system in schools.

*Children with disabilities
The exclusion of children with physical, mental and intellectual
disabilities from public schools in Jordan and Lebanon, including Syrian
refugees, is a serious issue, despite the existence of policies to promote
their integration. A recent evaluation of 120 refugees in Lebanon; half
of them with disabilities and other caregivers did not refer to any child
attending school or other educational activities. Only a few of these
handicapped children went to school in Syria. recent reports from
Jordan’s Za’atari camp indicate that children with disabilities do not
attend school in general.
Claire Cathernet, an integration advisor at Help Age and Handicap
International in Lebanon, says some children have severe
disabilities and may need specialized services, but many children with
sensory, intellectual, mental or physical disabilities can and should be
integrated into public schools.

* Encouraging school attendance

“Seize this opportunity, it’s your chance! What is the most important
education!” 

Back-to-school campaigns in the two countries encouraged children
to enroll in schools, and parents got to know the stages of the enrolment and its
process. In Jordan, Syrian and Jordanian Volunteers assisted UNICEF  to
save children by reaching more than 20,000 children in Za’atari
camp and 60,000 children in host communities. In Lebanon, UNHCR,
UNICEF and their partners supported an extensive community outreach
campaign, including the preparation and distribution of posters and
leaflets that clearly explain the steps of enrolment.
We all have a responsibility to protect children of Syria, to tell
their stories and to raise awareness about their plight until they can
return home.

“There is no honest expression about the spirit of society more than
the way it treats its children.”
~ Nelson Mandela ~

One Young World Community Dinner

One Young World community dinner went down on the eve of 19th October, 2018. The visit included 25 One Young World delegates (from Germany, Switzerland, Belize, Republic of Moldova, Singapore, Bangladesh, Ireland, Hong Kong, Spain, Belgium,The United States, Argentina, Sierra Leone, Portugal and Monaco) who were very inspirational in their thinking and demeanor. Our special visit that evening came from: Deputy Mayor Saskia Bruines, The Hague’s alderman for Education, Knowledge Economy and International Affairs. The director of The Hague Peace Projects, Jakob de Jonge welcomed the invited guests giving them a warm introduction.

One Young World 2018 delegates got to interact on with The Hague Peace Projects on a wealth of topics. Key on the discussion table were areas that focused on – peace and dialogue in various conflict areas such as : Syria, Turkey, Kurdistan, Bangladesh, The Democratic Republic of Congo – DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Sudan and Somalia. The evening gave the One Young World delegates in attendance, clear insights of dealing with conflict areas by the use of various projects centered on education and culture, media and journalism and research and advocacy. An emphasis on clarity to the situation on ground were demonstrated by selected speakers.

In attendance were the founders of the Yangambi Foundation – Angélique Mbundu and Dady Kiyangi, Katrina Burch of the Hague Hacks, Ewing Ahmed Salumu– Congolese Journalist, Valentin Akayezu- Human Rights Lawyer and Activist, Alena Kahle – Bangladesh- work group writer.

Catering credits  went to Ya_Laziz Catering who made sure the One Young World delegates had a delightful feast and pleasant ambience.

Images right below:

Valentin Akayezu Human Rights Lawyer, addressing the crowd.

One Young World delegates

Ewing Ahmed Salumu, Congolese expert journalist and Angelique Mbundu, founder of Yangambi Foundation

 

Angelique Mbundu, OYW delegate and Dady Kiyangi

 

Deputy Mayor of The Hague, Saskia Bruines and Jakob de Jonge, Director of The Hague Peace Projects.

One Young World delegates listening in to the address.

 

OYW delegates have a chat before their last course.

Smiles that tell it all. ( From the left: Jakob de Jonge, Dir. The Hague Peace Projects, OYW delegates and Deputy Mayor of The Hague, Saskia Bruines.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Justin Kabika Congolese expert (right) and OYW delegate for Belize, Kylah Ciego.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catering initiative, Ya Laziz, that savored the OYW diner’s taste buds – Instagram handle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Catering Credits: Ya Laziz

#Ya_Laziz_ Catering

@YaLazizCatering

 

Menu

——

Starters

Lentil soup with Turkish bread

Main Course

Yoghurt & cucumber

Moussaka

Rice, biryani flavor + nuts

Fatoush, Syrian Salad

Dessert

Mhalabe

Traditional rice pudding!

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Guest Program :

7.30pm – Guests coming in – Welcome refreshments

7.45pm – Welcome word ( Dir. The Hague Peace Projects – Jakob de Jonge)

–  Special honor visit  ( Deputy Mayor,The Hague – Saskia Bruines)

7.50pm –  Starter course – 1st presentation at the end the course – (Kitchen/Restaurant Team) – (Mohammed, Yasmine and Linde -welcome and-Ya Laziz- project background)

8.10pm– Dinner- (main course) – Hello and welcome mention from our team at Hague Peace Projects end the course

– Hague Hacks – Katrina

-Ewing, Valentine ( diaspora influence) + special guest : Angelique Mbundu and Dady Kiyangi  -iAfrica Film Festival and Yangambi Foundation-iAFF

-Green economy- Alena Kahel

9.00pm – Dessert + tea/coffee

9.10pm – Question and Answer session + Interactions (OYWs + The Hague Peace Projects Team)

-The question of and quest of/for Peace

-Green economy

-Talking change

-The Hague Hacks -technology + justice and peace

9.55pm– Vote of thanks ( Jakob de Jonge)

10.00pm– Guests leave at their own leisure

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bangladesh in the Human Rights Council: Why it is Ironic – a Legal Analysis

By Alena Kahle

On Friday, October 12th 2018, Bangladesh was elected to serve on the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. Countries are frequently rotating within the Council to create a dynamic environment and engage in globally democracy. Hopes are high that the country will revise some of its behavior, and fulfil the expectations of an HRC member. However, it seems ironic that especially Bangladesh should have decision-making powers given its current domestic affairs:
Since the enactment of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act in 2006, countless journalists, reporter, editors as well as professors have been charged with the publishing of defamatory content, and have been sentenced to several years in prison. The nature of the content leading to these alleged “cyber crimes”, however, in no way appears to be defamatory at all. In fact, the comments are generally well-argued criticism on government negligence or religious extremism. Only recently in August 2018, photographer Shahidul Alam was arrested after commenting on the violent suppression of peaceful protests for road safety (2).

Bangladesh’s judicial system itself is subject to serious flaws that impede the fulfilment of both constitutional and international obligations to protect human rights. By ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on September 6, 2000, Bangladesh was obliged to strive towards and achieve an independent judiciary. Until the 1st of November 2007, however, Bangladesh’s judiciary was not officially separated from the executive (6). Panday and Mollah of the Bangladeshi University of Rajshahi published a paper on the development of the judiciary and assessed that there “was always a tendency of executive government to control the judiciary” (7). As an example, judges at Magistrate Courts, which deal with issues such as the controversial ICT Act, fall into two categories: First, there are those judges that have been appointed not based on their ability, “but by the extent to which they have served the […] political benefit of the appointing party” (7). Second, the executive additionally appoints elected public servants to serve as “administrators-cum-judges” (7). As the former, the appointed judges, can be dismissed by the President at any time if it is in the “public interest”, the livelihood of judges is not secured, whereby their independence cannot be guaranteed (6). Alam, who had been arrested on charges under the ICT Act, pleaded for bail, but a non-independent Magistrate Court refused him such a bail, making way for the conclusion that Alam as well as many other activists have not had access to a fair trial under an independent judiciary.

The ICT Act itself was passed in 2006 with the purpose to close the “digital divide” within Bangladeshi population, and to ensure access to credible information (3). However, already brief observation shows that there is a “disconnect between the government’s Digital Bangladesh policy direction and the draconian features of the ICT Act and regulations” (3). The Act’s Section 57 reads:
(1) If any person deliberately […] causes to be published […] in electronic form any material which is fake and obscene or its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it, or causes to […] prejudice the image of the State or person or causes to hurt or may hurt religious belief or instigate against any person or organization, then this activity of his will be regarded as an offence.
(2) Whoever commits offence under sub-section (1) of this section he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to maximum 14 years and minimum 7 years […].
Despite already harsh criticism, the Act was amended on October 6, 2013 to become even stricter in what material may be published, what constitutes a cyber crime, and what measures can be taken against such crimes (4). Alam, for instance, was arrested under the revised provisions without a warrant, and cannot plead for a bail (3).
The following commentary accurately sums up what Section 57 thus means for the freedom of speech:
[It] appears that even any innocent online posting can become a cyber crime, if the authority believes that it has provoked a third person to become derailed or dishonest. In other words, the crime doesn’t depend on the offensive or illicit nature of the posted material. It depends on the readers’ or viewers’ personality and attitude. (5)
Although the Constitution under Article 39, as well as the ICCPR, guarantee Freedom of Expression, Speech and Press, both allow for restrictions to be made if these are “reasonable”. By this, the lawmakers meant to make room for situations in which the following are at risk:
• Public Order. This can be defined as “the sum of rules which ensure the functioning of society […]” (5).
• Public Safety. This can be defined as “protection against danger to the safety of persons, to their life or physical integrity or serious damage to their property” (5).
• Public Health. In situations, for instance, in which there is a severe risk for contamination with an epidemic, states may restrict their population’s freedom of assembly.

It is important to highlight that these reasons may not “be used for imposing vague or arbitrary limitations and may only be invoked when there exist adequate safeguards and effective remedies against abuse” (5). As the ICT Act seriously restricts Freedom of Speech, its purpose would have to fulfill the criteria laid out above, which it arguably does not. Critics additionally argue that the limitation of freedom of speech does not immediately mean limiting every expression of it (5). Although Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anisul Huq claimed in May 2017 that an explanatory clause would be added to the controversial Section 57, opponents maintain that the Article cannot be revised, but has to be omitted (1).

References
(1) Shubhra Adhikary, Tuhin. “The Trap of Section 57.” The Daily Star, July 07, 2017.
(2) “Bangladesh: Photographer Shahidul Alam Denied Bail in ‘cruel Affront to Justice’.” Amnesty International UK. September 11, 2018.
(3) Hussain, Faheem, and Mashiat Mostafa. “Digital Contradictions in Bangladesh: Encouragement and Deterrence of Citizen Engagement via ICTs.” Information Technologies & International Development 12, no. 2, 47-49.
(4) “Bangladesh: Information and Communication Technology Act Draconian Assault on Free Expression.” International Commission of Jurists. November 20, 2013.
(5) Badruzzaman, Mohammad. “Controversial Issues of Section-57 of the ICT Act, 2006: A Critical Analysis and Evaluation.” IOSR Journal Of Humanities And Social Science, II, 21, no. 1, 64-68.
(6) Hossain Mollah, Awal. “Independence of Judiciary in Bangladesh: An Overview.” International Journal of Law and Management 54, no. 1, 66-69.
(7) Panday, Pranab, and Md. Awal Hossain Mollah. “The Judicial System of Bangladesh: An Overview from Historical Viewpoint.” International Journal of Law and Management 53, no. 1, 6-31.

How to Prevent Conflicts over Resources through your Lifestyle

By Alena Kahle

A recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is shocking – the climate change mitigation goals set by governments have been far too optimistic, and even more proactivity is needed than has previously been held. This is shocking not because it is news, but because many governments have until now not been able to fulfil even the targets that have been set so far – it seems more than ever that time is running out. A serious amount of tangible horrors await us: The increased occurrence of storms that ravish entire regions and destroy lives. The escalation of lurking conflicts over finite resources, over the right to clean water, over land that has not yet been flooded, or that has not yet dried out. Conflicts over what fish are still left in the sea, and over territory that has not yet been exploited.

What awaits us is conflict over the future, and preventing this may seem an unsurmountable task – after all, what can individuals do to stop China and India from fighting over water, or Yemenis from warring over starvation?

Many supermarkets mainly sell unsustainable products. Often, they come from civil-war locations, are produced under exploitative circumstances, and are produced at cheap prices by excessive use of pesticides which travel through the soil into waters. The disregard of the current economic system for the environment has terrible consequences for human lives, and we are late to realize the scope of consequences. Governments through various climate agreements have agreed to reduce their negative impact on the environment, but while companies and energy sectors are being somewhat regulated, us consumers are not being guided very well in pursuit of more ethical consumption. As long as supermarkets offer what they do, it is understandable that consumers will not ride their bike all the way to the closest organic, waste-free market, or choose the more expensive milk or bread.

On this occasion, I would like to analyse the following picture of the filled shopping cart, and guide the reader. There are ways individuals can help their governments fulfil the targets, and therefore significantly contribute to mitigating the damages or slowing down the process of deterioration:

 

Meat.

Why do we buy it? – Meat for many people is an important source of protein. It is certainly important in vulnerable regions of the world. However, in other regions it has become a commodity.

Why is it bad? – Meat comes from animals that have to be fed, that need land, and that require energy. To generate this energy, resources are needed, some of which are finite. The amount of energy and water put into meat is disproportionately high compared to the energy that is left in the final meat product.

How can we act to reduce the potential for conflict over resources? Reducing the consumption of animal products is the easiest and most effective way to halt the destruction of the planet, and thus prevent conflicts over resources from happening.

 

Plastic.

Why do we buy it? – The owner of the shopping cart decided to buy bread, salad, cream cheese, noodles and much more in plastic wrapping. Many of these products only come in plastic packaging. Plastic is argued to keep food clean, and can increase the shelf life. Offices tend to use plastic cups or plates, or provide small plastic spoons to stir coffee.

Why is it bad? – First, these products are shipped from far, which requires energy and produces emissions. Second, plastic does not dissolve, and when not recycled properly, it enters into the food chain. Therefore, important links in the food chain are missing, and the ecosystem is slowly being killed from within as substitutes run out. Finally, plastic in many regions of the world is burnt instead of being recycled, as this is cheaper in production. The burning of plastic releases toxins which are inhaled – cities such as New Delhi and Beijing are extreme examples of how such pollution can turn into deadly smog.

How can we act to reduce the potential for conflict over resources? – The easiest steps are using reusable bags. Say “no” to straws, bring your own cutlery, or volunteer to do the washing up at your office. Many internet guides exist on reducing plastic consumption, and the feeling of living nearly waste-free is incredibly liberating. Food can be prepared at home, which also saves money, and using food-sharing systems can help decrease the risk of food going bad.

 

Soy, pistachios, almonds and avocados.

Why do we buy it? – Soy milk is a good substitute for cow milk, which many environmentally conscious people prefer. Nuts are a good source of nutrients, and the popularity of avocados has increased in recent years.

Why is it bad? – Often, rainforests are destroyed to make room for soy products. The land, however, frequently belongs to indigenous populations, whose fundamental rights are being violated. In removing them from the land, governments and companies often use force, sparking conflict. The products themselves require insane amount of energy and water, worse even when they are not in season and need to be grown under artificial conditions. They therefore use up disproportionately many resources for only a little amount of end-products.

How can we act to reduce the potential for conflict over resources? – Oat milk is a delicious and less energy-consuming alternative to soy milk. It can also be easily made at home.

 

Tin cans and aluminium.

Why do we buy it? – Leftover food is often preserved in tin foil, and tin cans with beans or tomatoes allow food to stay good for months.

Why is it bad? – Aluminium is a finite resource that sparks conflict in regions such as the Democratic Republic Congo. Child labour and worker exploitation occur just as much as wars between militias about the valuable resource. As neither are biodegradable, they seriously pollute the environment and waters that people fish in for their livelihoods.

How can we act to reduce the potential for conflict over resources? – Food also stays good if we put it in containers instead of aluminium, tin foil or plastic foil.

 

The single most effective way to reduce our tendency to buy products that fuel civil wars and fights over livelihoods is to combat our general consumerism. The tendency to spend on leisure products and indulge on items that are not actually essential leads us to buy whatever is offered to us and to prefer cheap items over ethical ones. I personally urge governments to act and impose restrictions on the available products in shop and incentivize a lifestyle that is long overdue. Until then, it seems to be left up to us to act according to the urgency that is required.

 

For any questions or inspiration on reducing waste and becoming a more ethical consumer, please contact Alena at The Hague Peace Projects.

Image source: https://twocansonastring.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/grocerycart.jpg

 

 

Narratives of hatred and division might drastically change the Indian elections

By Alena Kahle

It’s a Wednesday evening, and a group of Master’s students from The Hague’s International Institute for Social Sciences has organized a get together at The Bookstore Café. Chairs are pulled together under the books stacked up to the ceiling, and a crowd pours in. Indian students are chatting with their fellow batchmates, and are eager to provide insight into a politically divided world they have left behind physically, but by far not mentally.

In April 2019, the Indian populous will vote for its direct representatives. Whatever party wins most seats will effectively run the government, drive policies, and decide the direction the country will take. But even despite the vast diversity that exists in the party horizon, options are limited. The political left is fragmented, and the main opposition, so it is claimed, is led by a man incapable of presenting himself in the right way.

The students’ narrative takes the listeners on a journey: When in the last elections the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took over, hopes were high. The general electorate was carried away in the euphoria coming out of the election campaign, and nationalism surged not because of hatred for outsiders, but because of pride for the own success. This nationalism has turned. One student vividly describes the nature of television and news, and explains how they feel every message being published is designed to support the ruling majority in fear of being otherwise shut down. Ostensibly political TV debates, if they are not government-narrated, have turned into one big reality TV show. Being a true Indian patriot has become synonymous with supporting economic growth at all costs, and the ruling party has already banned Greenpeace and is shutting down any group that favours promoting social justice over excessive growth.

In this election campaign, the strength of the BJP, the ruling party, seems to be that its “growth-first” policy is at first glance uplifting the life quality of many. But its true strength, the evening shows, is the BJP since winning the last elections has fostered a narrative of societal division. One student describes BJP as a corporation more than a party, which throughout its current rule has managed to bond its voters while marginalizing its opponents through its narrative.

The students are worried. They raise issues of anti-Muslim hatred, and one student brings up that they feel history is being rewritten to paint Muslims as invaders of the culture, and to promote Hindu unity, in a country where diversity fuels hospitality. The evening has taken a turn from just being about politics. It has expanded to encompass a worrying change in society. The elections in April 2019 are bound not only to decide whether divisions have managed to become deeply entrenched in society, but also whether politics will continue to tackle problems that are not those in need of being addressed.

Over thirty thousand people of Indian origin live in The Netherlands, with its largest group living in The Hague.[1] Compared to the population of 1.3 billion India itself had in 2016, this number might appear small, but those abroad have proven to make their voices heard, and address concerns about their country’s future to the world.[2]

As author, I have communicated with the organizers of the event to confirm that the article did not misinterpret comments made at the event. I therefore hope to have accurately portrayed the opinions and current events in India. The live stream of the video can be found at https://www.facebook.com/international.scholas/videos/502272256955036/

[1]  CBS StatLine – Population; sex, age, origin and generation, 1 January”. statline.cbs.nl. Retrieved 15 September 2016.

[2] “World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision”ESA.UN.org (custom data acquired via website). United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. Retrieved 10 September2017.

The power politics of law enforcement: Arrest of prominent photographer Shahidul under the unlawful ICT Act

After the death of two students in a road accident in late July 2018, protests sparked in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, with tens out thousands of students not only protesting the lack of government effort to prevent thousands of road deaths a year (1), but for the government to take responsibility for more burning issues (1). The peaceful protesters, however, were met with violence – police fired tear gas at students, pro-government students launched counter-attacks, and anyone documenting the incidents was stopped by extra constitutional means (1). A sentiment is spreading among the urban population: The time has come for the Government to restore the rule of law that the Bangladeshi Constitution guarantees (2).

The forced dissolution of the protests did not serve the purpose of securing public safety. Instead, it was a manifestation of efforts to silence those who publish evidence of any kind of violence. Human rights activist Sultana Kamal assessed that the “state automatically assumes [people speaking up about human rights] are talking against the state” (3). This assumption becomes clear in the story of Shahidul Alam. Shahidul, himself a photographer, documented the protests in early August, and later in a Skype interview with Al-Jazeera commented on the excessive use of force by the police and that he had observed (4). On August 5 2018, Shahidul was surprised by thirty to thirty-five officers from the Detective Branch; as CCTV had been taped up and footage was later confiscated, the sole account of the incident originates from the security guards of the premise, who had been tied and locked up by law enforcement (5).

Shahidul was apprehended on the basis of charges under the ICT Act. The Act was passed meaning to facilitate access to credible information and to close the “digital divide” within Bangladesh, but researchers have observed a “disconnect between the government’s Digital Bangladesh policy direction and the draconian features of the ICT Act” (6). Enacted in 2006 when the judiciary in Bangladesh had not yet fully become independent from the executive (8), the Act was amended on 6 October 2013 to include stricter provisions – for instance, offences under the Act are now non-bailable, and arrests can be conducted without warrants, as was the case with Shahidul’s arrest (6). Through the 2013 revision, the minimum sentence for the defined acts is now 7 years, and can extend up to 14. Its Section 57(1) reads:

If any person deliberately […] causes to be published […] in electronic form any material which is fake and obscene or its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it, or causes to […] prejudice the image of the State or person or causes to hurt or may hurt religious belief or instigate against any person or organization, then this activity of his will be regarded as an offence.

The following commentary accurately sums up what Section 57 means for the freedom of speech in Bangladesh:

From the text of the Act it appears that even any innocent online posting can become a cyber crime […]. [The] crime doesn’t depend on the offensive or illicit nature of the posted material. It depends on the readers’ or viewers’ personality and attitude (8).

Freedom of Speech is guaranteed by Article 39 of the Bangladeshi Constitution; the right can only be restricted under clearly defined criteria which the purpose of the ICT Act does not meet (8). Freedom of Speech is also subject to Article 18 and Article 19(3) the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Bangladesh in 2000 (9). The ICT Act is thus not only unconstitutional, but unlawful even beyond.

Detained on the basis of the unlawful ICT Act, Shahidul’s treatment equally violates his fundamental human rights. During his imprisonment, he has been tortured (UN Convention Against Torture), denied contact to his lawyer (Article 13(b) on the Right to a Fair Trial of the ICCPR) (10), and denied bail twice by a non-independent judiciary a violation of Article 14 of the ICCPR) (7).

It is a general principle of international law that states hold responsibility for their wrongdoings, and customary international law applies to Bangladesh as to that it may not invoke its internal law for treaty breaches. While the term “treaty breach” may seem quite technical, in this case it refers to serious violations of human rights. Shahidul is only one of many journalists, editors, professors and bloggers arrested on basis of the ICT Act, and the silencing of those who speak out against intolerable police brutality cannot be excused. Journalists and students are standing up for their right to be heard, and the violent suppression of both only indicates that Bangladesh’s rule of law is further deteriorating.

We stand in solidarity with Shahidul. He, as many others, does not in any way deserve the prison term of seven years he will most likely be sentenced to, under an Act that was made by politics, not the law.

 

References

Image source