When Mr. Mahmudur Rahman, Acting editor of the Daily Amar Desh, a national daily newspaper in Bangladesh, was released on bail from Kashimpur Jail on November 24, 2016, he was directly transferred to United Hospital in Dhaka for medical assessment and treatment, as his health had severely deteriorated during his prolonged arbitrary detention due to ill treatment and lack of access to proper medical care. After several days of medical examinations, doctors at United Hospital concluded that Mr. Rahman, 64 years old, was suffering from a variety of ailments including hypertension; vitamin deficiency, vertigo, intestinal bleeding and serious weight loss. Most importantly, he was diagnosed with spondylosis of his cervical and lumbar spine which prevents him from sleeping or walking properly. The expert neurosurgeon at United Hospital concluded that Mr. Rahman had to undergo urgent surgery to address this spinal problem, preferably abroad since the medical facilities available in Bangladesh are inadequate to address this issue.
Following this diagnosis, Mr. Rahman’s family contacted a renown neurosurgeon in the United Kingdom, who upon analysing Mr. Rahman’s medical file, also concluded that if he does not undergo surgery soon, he is at risk of permanent neurological damage to his sciatic nerves. The neurosurgeon therefore referred Mr. Rahman to a specialist in London who could perform the surgery and contacted the British Embassy in Bangladesh to request that they facilitate Mr. Rahman’s travel to the UK to undergo surgery.
As Mr. Rahman’s passport has been confiscated by the Bangladeshi authorities, his lawyers presented a petition on December 12, 2016 before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, asking for the authorities to return Mr. Rahman’s passport. Disregarding the multiple expert medical opinions that has already concluded that Mr. Rahman requires urgent medical intervention abroad, the Chief Justice ordered Mr. Rahman to pay for another examination by a Medical Board organised by the Director of the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital to determine whether Mr. Rahman requires surgery abroad. It must be noted that this Hospital is run by the Ministry of Health, and its Director is a Brigadier General in the military, which leads to credible concerns about the political neutrality of this Medical Board, especially since Mr. Rahman is a well-known critic of the Government.
The designated Medical Board is set to examine Mr. Rahman on December 26, 2016 and to submit their report to the Supreme Court shortly thereafter. It will then be up to the discretion of the Chief Justice to order Mr. Rahman’s passport to be returned and that he be allowed to travel abroad for surgery. Our organisations call on the Chief Justice to order that Mr. Rahman be allowed to travel abroad for urgent surgery, in order to end his continuous physical suffering and prevent further medical problems including permanent damage to his nerves. We also call on the British authorities to facilitate Mr. Rahman’s visa and travel to the UK so that he may be able to undergo this urgent surgery.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) works towards the radical rethinking and fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in order to protect and promote human rights in Asia. Established in 1984, the Hong Kong based organisation is a Laureate of the Right Livelihood Award 2014.
For more information, please contact:
• OMCT: Delphine Reculeau: +41 22 809 4939
• FIDH: Audrey Couprie / Arthur Manet: + 33 143552518
• AHRC: Md. Ashrafuzzaman: +852 607 32 807