Desk report, Sep 30: BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia must go back to prison first and then proceed through court if she wishes to go abroad for treatment, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said during an interview with Voice of America on Saturday.
In an interview with VOA Journalist Satarupa Barua, Sheikh Hasina said, “If they [BNP] want to take her [Khaleda Zia] abroad, they must go to court. They have to apply. She can go if the court permits.”
“We have no scope to interfere in the court’s activities. All I have been able to do as the prime minister is suspend her sentence on humanitarian grounds and allow her to stay home.
“She [Khaleda Zia] arranged the treatment herself. She is being treated at the most expensive hospital in Bangladesh,” the prime minister said.
‘They can impose sanctions as they wish’
However, she questioned the validity of the sudden US sanctions.
The premier also claimed all the elections held since 2008 have been fair.
‘Penalty has been reduced’
In response to criticism surrounding the Cyber Security Act, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina addressed the significant modifications made in the updated Cyber Security Act 2023, replacing the heavily criticised Digital Security Act of 2018.
“The enactment of the new law is aimed at ensuring the security of the people, countering terrorism and militancy, and safeguarding the human rights of the citizens. It reflects the recommendations put forth by experts,” the premier said, underscoring that the amended version includes a reduction in penalties.
The proposed Cyber Security Act introduces monetary penalties in lieu of imprisonment for defamation cases filed under the Act. Should the law be implemented, individuals will not face arrest by the police in defamation cases.
Sheikh Hasina emphasised the global prevalence of cyber laws, stating, “Cyber laws are not unique to Bangladesh; they exist worldwide.
She noted that the formulation of this recent amendment involved a comprehensive study of cyber laws in various countries.”
When questioned about police accountability, the prime minister said there are provisions (Criminal Procedure Code) in place if law enforcement officials are found to be involved in any crime or extrajudicial action.
“If an individual is involved in criminal activities, and the police do not respond promptly upon receiving the information, there is a potential risk that the accused might escape or erase the evidence,” she explained.
‘Why don’t they [UN] investigate by themselves?’
When asked about the United Nations (UN) report highlighting 70 unresolved cases of enforced disappearance in Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina responded with a counter question saying, “Why has the UN not undertaken an investigation if they are dissatisfied with Bangladesh’s response.”
On 19 September, the UN said 70 cases of disappearances in Bangladesh have not yet been solved. The organisation had asked the Bangladeshi government about the status of a total of 88 disappearances. The government said five have been detained, and 10 are free.
According to Bangladeshi human rights advocates, security forces have committed over 600 enforced disappearances since 2009. While some people were later released, produced in court, or said to have died during an armed exchange with security forces, nearly 100 people remain missing.
The government has refused to take up the offer from the United Nations to help establish a specialised mechanism to investigate allegations of enforced disappearances in line with international standards, HRW said in a statement on the occasion of International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances (30 August).