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article imageOp-Ed: Did Sweden deny Ananta Bijoy Das's fundamental human rights?

By Brian Booker     May 19, 2015 in World
Ananta Bijoy Das was murdered last week for his work as a secular activist and blogger. Sadly, his death may have been prevented if Sweden had granted him a visa to speak on human rights at a conference.
“Ananta Bijoy Das” has become the next name crossed off a “hit list” of bloggers now under attack in Bangladesh. His death marked the third murder of a secular blogger in Bangladesh so far this year. The original hit list contained 84 names, and so far nine of those on the list have died.
The murder became all the more tragic when news broke that Sweden had denied Ananta Bijoy Das a visa. Had the visa been granted, Das would have likely been in Sweden rather than Bangladesh on the day he was hacked to death.
Worse yet, Das didn't apply for a visa just to go and see many of Sweden's renowned sights. He was actually scheduled to speak at a major talk to celebrate World Press Freedom Day.
The Swedish government, however, felt that Das posed too high of a flight risk. Authorities feared that he would try overstay his visa. The embassy in Dhaka noted that he came from a pool of applicants who posed a high risk of not leaving.
Given that Das was a well-known secular activist who preached science and reason, Swedish authorities had reason to suspect that he would indeed try to stay in the country. Had Das done so, he would have most likely tried to declare asylum.
Should the Swedish government have denied him on those grounds, however, when Das's life was known to be at risk?
In fact, if Sweden denied Ananta asylum simply because they were worried that he would try to declare asylum, the country may have denied him his fundamental human rights.
Under international law people have a right to seek asylum in other countries when they are facing a serious threat of persecution.
The high-risk of being hacked to death in the streets seems to fit the definition of persecution. Given that radical Muslims have also put together a hit-list, and that Ananta's name was among those on the list, the blogger had plenty of reason to believe he was at risk of being persecuted.
Several bloggers have already been killed, and other names may well join the list as the months go on. Before the first blogger was killed a foreign government could have perhaps denied the hit lists as a legitimate threat, but it has become painfully obvious that radicals are actively trying to kill secular bloggers.
While individual countries are allowed to formulate their own policies and laws in regards to asylum, to blatantly deny someone a visa when their life is known to be under threat for political reasons would seem to go against the spirit of human rights law.
Sweden has built up a strong reputation for protecting persecuted peoples, granting an astounding 70 percent of asylum applications. Many of the applications, however, are granted once a person is already in the country.
Instead of trying to boot asylum seekers out, Sweden may be trying to close its doors and allow fewer people in who could seek asylum. Sweden does appear to be burdened with the high number of asylum seekers, and has called on other European countries to share the burden.
Bangladesh is a predominately Muslim country. Rampant poverty and other social conditions have created a strong radical Islamist element, which has been targeting secular activists in earnest.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
More about Bangladesh, Asylum, political asylum, Sweden, Human Rights
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