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Anti-terrorism Act, 2009

Anti-terrorism Act, 2009 In the wake of world-wide terrorist activities, many countries adopted anti-terrorism laws during the last one decade or so. Bangladesh also followed the same. In early January 2009, the grand alliance led by the Awami League took over the reins of government, having won a thumping majority in the election. The outgoing non-party caretaker government first approved and issued an anti-terrorism law in the form of an ordinance. The Constitution dictates the necessity that any ordinance has to be approved by the Parliament later to be effective as law. Consequently, the elected government submitted to the Parliament the proposed law for approval (Act 16 of 2009). This was done in February 2009, and after due consideration it received the approval of Parliament.

The Act consists of ten chapters with 45 sections, and was given retrospective effect from 11 June 2008. The Act also contains a provision that all acts done or any action taken under the previous ordinance shall be valid. Further, the Act overrides some provisions of the code of criminal procedure or any other law. The Act has been given extra-state applicability. In this respect, three features are worthy of note. First, if any Bangladeshi citizen commits a crime under this law against any other person abroad or commits a crime against the assets of Bangladesh, which is committed within Bangladesh, would be an offence under the Act, and that person shall be deemed to have committed the said crime in Bangladesh and the provisions of the Act shall be applicable to him. Second, the law is applicable to a person who, coming from outside Bangladesh, commits a crime in Bangladesh. He is deemed to have committed the crime in Bangladesh. Third, conversely, the law is also applicable to a person who commits a crime abroad from inside Bangladesh. He is similarly deemed to have committed the offence in Bangladesh.

The extra-territorial jurisdiction of the law has been incorporated in the law in the light of experiences of patterns of terrorism related crimes. Experience has proved that acts of terrorism transcend geographical boundaries. Any person allured by or imbued with the idea of terrorism can receive training outside his own country, and then commit crimes in the said country. This has happened. Similarly, a terrorist can bring explosives and other materials from outside his own country or a terrorist organisation can also do the same in furtherance to criminal activities.

Chapter 2 of the act provides for the definition of the term 'acts of terrorism'. It is defined as any action of a person which tends to put in jeopardy territorial integrity, sovereignty, unity or security by striking terror in the people or parts of people of Bangladesh, and in furtherance of the crime if the person prevents the government or any person from doing normal work, for which the person engaged in such crime (a) kills any person or causes grievous hurt, detains or kidnaps him or cause damage to his properties or (b) pursuant to (a) above, makes use of or keeps in his possession any explosives, arms or any other chemical substances, the person concerned shall be deemed to have committed an act of terrorism. The punishment prescribed for such offence is death or transportation for life or rigorous imprisonment for a period not exceeding twenty years with or without fine.

A distinctive feature of the law is that providing financial support for acts of terrorism is also an offence. This feature has been expressly prescribed for in the law. The punishment prescribed for such offence extends to imprisonment not exceeding twenty years, but not less than three years with provision for fine.

The law also provides for other terrorism related crimes with varying scale of punishment. The offences include membership of outlawed organizations, supporting such organizations, conspiracy relating to acts of terrorism, attempts to commit and support to such act, instigating to commit acts of terrorism, and harboring terrorists.

For prevention of financial aid to acts of terrorism, Bangladesh Bank has been vested with specific authority for controlling any other banks. To this end, the Bangladesh Bank has been authorised to issue instructions to other banks that they are bound to follow. However, there are safeguards for the other banks also. The law-enforcing agencies are, for instance, required to obtain prior approval of, and permission from the chief executive officer of the relevant bank to have access to any document, and the banks in turn are also required to observe necessary precautionary measures to prevent financial aid to acts of terrorism. Relevant instructions in this regard are to be issued by the Bangladesh Bank. Violation of any such instructions entails a penalty not exceeding taka one million.

Other provisions of the law relates to imposition or ban on any organisation by the government if it is satisfied that there exist reasonable grounds to do so, taking action against any terrorist organisation, procedure for investigation and trial, constitution of special tribunals for trial of offenders, method of trial, time limit for investigation and trial, seizure of assets used to commit acts of terrorism, mutual legal support, cognizance of crime, making offences under the law non-bailable, prior approval of and transfer of cases under trial. [AMM Shawkat Ali]

Bibliography Bangladesh Gazette (Extraordinary), 24 February 2009.