Seven international organisations have called upon the government to ensure an enabling environment for human rights defenders so that they can express their opinions freely without any fear of reprisals, harassment or intimidation from state and non-state actors.
Expressing deep concern over the threats to rights activist Sultana Kamal by Hefajat-e-Islam, the organisations demanded that the government take measures to guarantee the physical and psychosocial security of her, her family members and fellow human rights defenders.
The government's silence in this regard reinforces a culture of impunity which emboldens the extremists to act criminally without fear of prosecution, according to a statement jointly issued by Amnesty International, Front Line Defenders, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, South Asians for Human Rights; Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development; Association for Progressive Communications, and International Service for Human Rights.
The organisations also urged the government to openly and unequivocally condemn Hefajat's statement and threats against the rights activist.
Hefajat's threat came after a recent television talk show. Hosted by DU teacher Robaet Ferdous, the programme was participated by Sultana Kamal, Hefajat leader Mufti Shakhawat Hossain, Gonojagoron Mancha spokesperson Imran H Sarker, and former Awami League lawmaker Apu Ukil.
At the talk show, referring to the statue of Lady Justice on the Supreme Court premises, Shakhawat said there should be no religious structures on the court premises, Sultana told The Daily Star. "I said, yes, I agree with you. There should be no religious structures on the court premises. Not even mosques," she said.
Later, Hefajat leaders from a rally in front of Baitul Mukarram gave an ultimatum to the government to arrest Sultana Kamal within 24 hours or send her into exile.
In a statement issued yesterday, PEN Bangladesh Centre also condemned the threat against the prominent lawyer and demanded that the government ensure her safety.