Bangladesh: Further acts of judicial harassment against Messrs. Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan

13/01/2017
Urgent Appeal

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

New information
BGD 001 / 0813 / OBS 074.8

Judicial harassment
Bangladesh
January 13, 2017

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in Bangladesh.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed with great concern about further acts of judicial harassment against Messrs. Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan, respectively Secretary and Director of the human rights non-governmental organisation Odhikar, in a further attempt to sanction and silence their human rights activities [1].

According to the information received, on January 9, 2017, the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, presided over by Justice M. Enayetur Rahim, dismissed the appeal filed by Messrs. Adilur Rahman Khan, also a member of OMCT General Assembly and FIDH Vice-President, and ASM Nasiruddin Elan, aiming to contest the charges framed against them under Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act (ICT Act) 2006, in relation to a fact-finding report issued by Odhikar on the killing of civilians by security forces in May 2013. The High Court further decided to lift a stay order which the Supreme Court had granted to the two defenders in January 2014, and directed the Cyber Crimes Tribunal to proceed with their prosecution (see background information).

On January 10, 2017, the lawyers of the two defenders filed an appeal challenging the High Court’s judgement and order dated January 9, 2017 before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. In the afternoon, the Chamber Judge of the Appellate Division stayed the High Court’s judgment and order for four weeks, in order to give time to both parties to prepare for the case.

The Observatory condemns the ongoing judicial harassment of Messrs. Adilur Rahman Khan and Nasiruddin Elan, which seems only to be aimed at sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities, and urges the authorities to put an immediate end to it.

Background information:

Odhikar has been under extreme pressure since August 2013, when the authorities arrested Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan on trumped up charges in relation to a fact-finding report issued by Odhikar on the killing of civilians by security forces in May 2013.

Following this publication, Messrs. Rahman Khan and Elan were arbitrarily detained in 2013 for respectively 62 and 25 days until they were both released on bail. On January 21, 2014, the High Court Division of the Supreme Court granted a stay of the trial in the Cyber Crimes Tribunal. The stay order was subsequently challenged by the Attorney General’s Office in the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.

On March 21, 2016, the Appellate Division ordered that the hearing on the stay order was to commence as early as possible before the High Court Division.

On January 3 and 4, 2017, a hearing took place in two parts before a High Court Bench comprised of Justice M. Enayetur Rahim and Justice Shahidul Karim.

Since 2013, attacks and harassment against Odhikar have been ongoing, including judicial harassment against both Messrs. Adilur Rahman Khan and Nasiruddin Elan, as well as the surveillance and repression of Odhikar, its staff, and their relatives.

Odhikar is also facing great difficulties to implement its activities, since its registration has not been renewed by the NGO Affairs Bureau (NGOAB) of the Government of Bangladesh and is still pending though all the required documents were submitted on time. All of its bank accounts have been frozen and it has been forbidden from receiving foreign funding.

In addition, on August 2, 2015, the Media and Public Relations wing of the Police Headquarters in Dhaka issued a statement condemning newspaper reports on extrajudicial killings, which cited Odhikar and BAMAK, another NGO, and declared that the statements made by the two organisations “contravene the existing laws of Bangladesh, which is synonymous to challenging Rule of Law and the judicial system”. The Police Press Release further stated that questioning the activities of the police threatens the reputation of the police and amounts to defamation and a criminal act, and may be considered as a subversive activity [2].

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Bangladesh, urging them to:

i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan and Mr. Nasiruddin Elan, as well as of all human rights defenders in Bangladesh;

ii. Put an end to any kind of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan and Mr. Nasiruddin Elan, as well as all human rights defenders in Bangladesh;

iii. Ensure in all circumstances that Odhikar as well as all human rights defenders in Bangladesh are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iv. Withdraw the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Bill 2015;

v. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its Articles 1 and 12.2;

vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bangladesh.

Addresses:

· Ms. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 8113243, Email: pm@pmo.gov.bd
· Professor Dr. Gowher Rizvi, Adviser to the Prime Minister (International Affairs), Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 9111312 Email: advinternational@pmo.gov.bd
· Mr. Asaduzzaman Khan, State Minister for Home Affairs of Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 9515541. Email: stateminister@mha.gov.bd
· Mr. Anisul Huq, Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs of Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 7168557. Email: minoflaw@law.com
· Md. Shahriar Alam, State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 9562188. Email: fm@mofa.gov.bd
· Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Bangladesh, Fax: +880 2 956 5058 /+880 2 7161344, E-mail: chief@bdcom.com or supremec@bdcom.com
· Mr. Mahbubey Alam, Attorney General for Bangladesh, Email: adv_mahbubey@yahoo.com
· H.E. Mr. Abdul Hannan, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 738 46 16, E-mail: mission.bangladesh@ties.itu.int
· Embassy of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 646 59 98; Email: bdootbrussels@skynet.be

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Bangladesh in your respective country as well as to the EU diplomatic missions or embassies in Bangladesh.

***
Geneva-Paris, January 13, 2017

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· E-mail: Appeals[at]fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
· Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

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