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Bangladesh: Religious Edicts Declared Illegal

(July 22, 2010) On July 8, 2010, the High Court of Bangladesh issued a ruling declaring all kinds of extrajudicial punishments illegal, including those imposed on the basis of religious edicts (fatwas). The ruling was in response to three writ petitions filed with the High Court by rights organizations and individual attorneys seeking directives to stop extrajudicial punishment. The petitions were filed following several newspaper reports and investigations into violence inflicted on women in the name of fatwas by local religious leaders. The petitioners argued that local religious leaders' harassment and punishment of women in the name of religious edicts had led to injuries, killings, and suicide and were contrary to the Bangladesh Constitution.

The High Court's verdict directs the government, law enforcement officers, municipalities, and other local authorities to take punitive action against persons involved in administering extrajudicial punishments in the name of religious edicts. The Court said that the “rights to life and equal protection have to be treated in accordance with the law” and that “the citizens will not be subject to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment.” (Ashutosh Sarkar, Fatwa Illegal: HC Rules Against All Extra-Judicial Punishments upon Writ Petitions, THE DAILY STAR (Dhaka) (July 9, 2010),