11 August 2015

H.E. Sheikh Hasina
Honorable Prime Minister
Prime Minister’s Office
Old Sangsad Bhaban
Tejgaon, Dhaka-1215
The People’s Republic of Bangladesh

SAHR Open Letter to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh expressing condemnation against the killing of Niloy Chatterjee and escalating religious extremism in Bangladesh

Your Excellency,

South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), a regional network of human rights defenders express our most severe shock and condemnation at the horrendous killing of Niladri Chatterjee (pen name – Niloy Neel), a writer and blogger in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 7 August 2015. We are deeply alarmed at the escalating instances of religious extremism and gruesome hate crimes in Bangladesh, the suppression of freedom of expression and the lack of visible effort on the part of the Bangladeshi government to address this issue and bring perpetrators of such violence to justice in a more expeditious and transparent manner.

Niladri was targeted by Islamist groups due to his criticism of religious extremism and was brutally hacked to death by six men who had broken into his home in Goran. Niladri is the fourth to be killed by extremists in Bangladesh between February and August 2015. Avijit Roy, Washiqur Rahman, and Ananta Bijoy Das were all murdered violently for expressing views against religious extremism or championing atheism.

SAHR is seriously concerned that freedom of expression in Bangladesh is being severely suppressed by armed groups of religious extremists and that the government of Bangladesh is showing inadequate resolution and political will to combat such brutal acts of terror. Human rights defenders and social activists have become extremely vulnerable and insecure because of the climate of fear and the continuing impunity for these heinous crimes.

Although Niladri had filed a report with the police expressing a fear for his life which had not been followed up, a clear indication of the apathetic efforts and disinterested attitude of Bangladeshi authorities in combating issues of religious fanaticism. An extension of this attitude is visible in the preposterous warning issued by the inspector general of police (IGP) two days after the murder of Niladri which cautioned bloggers not to offend religious sentiments rather than warning perpetrators of hate crimes to refrain from such acts of terror.

The remarks by the Chief of Police are not only irresponsible but a blatant evasion of the obligation of the state to protect by apportioning blame upon the victim rather than ensuring accountability of the perpetrator. Such a stance by a high official of your Excellency’s government will only encourage the repulsive beliefs of these armed groups of radicals. SAHR can only hope that this is also be a cause of concern for your Excellency and that appropriate action will be taken to ensure that such a situation does not recur.

SAHR calls upon the government of Bangladesh to conduct independent and transparent investigations into the killings of Niladri Chatterjee, Avijit Roy, Washiqur Rahman, and Ananta Bijoy Das and to make the public aware of the progress being made on such investigation and consequent prosecutions. A disappointing lack of progress in bringing the perpetrators of earlier killings and similar crimes against free expression is however indicated by the frequent and unabated acts of brutality being freely carried out by terror groups in the name of religion.

It is the responsibility of your Excellency’s Government and all political parties in Bangladesh to uphold established democratic norms, combat issues of terrorism and religious extremism and reinstate the rule of law more effectively. SAHR appeals to your government to fulfill its responsibility in protecting the civil and political rights of the peoples of Bangladesh, especially the right to life, free expression and religious freedoms.

On behalf of the members of South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR).

Hina Jilani 
Chairperson

Dr. Nimalka Fernando  
Co-Chairperson