The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bangladesh.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing arbitrary detention, judicial harassment, and ill-treatment of Mr. Mahmudur Rahman, Acting Editor of the Amar Desh newspaper, who has been detained since 2013 for various fabricated and politically motivated charges relating to his work as a journalist.
According to the information received, on May 4, 2016, Mr. Mahmudur Rahman was brought before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s (CMM) Court of Dhaka, after having spent five days under remand by the Detective Branch (DB) Police. The police requested another seven days’ remand from the CMM to continue interrogating Mr. Rahman regarding a case that is widely acknowledged as fabricated and politically motivated. At the courthouse, Mr. Rahman appeared very frail and said that under remand he had been interrogated for long periods late at night and had been deprived sleep. Nevertheless, Metropolitan Magistrate Mr. Pranab Kumar Hui ordered Mr. Rahman to be remanded for five more days without examining the latter’s medical condition.
The Observatory recalls that Mr. Rahman has been detained since April 11, 2013 and has now spent over three years in arbitrary detention linked to 73 criminal cases. Mr. Rahman has been repeatedly granted bail by the Courts, but each time bail is granted the police present a new criminal case against him in order to prevent him from being released (see background information). His latest transfer to police remand took place on April 29, 2016, when Mr. Rahman was brought from Kashimpur Jail 2, Gazipur, to the Detective Branch (DB) of Police in Dhaka. While under remand in DB custody at Minto Road, Dhaka, he was denied any visits from either his relatives or his lawyers.
The Observatory expresses its deep concern about Mr. Mahmudur Rahman’s prolonged detention and current custody under remand, which are illegal according to both the Criminal Procedure Code and the Constitution of Bangladesh. The Criminal Procedure Code clearly states that if a trial cannot be completed within a specific time (in this case 180 days) the accused person should be released on bail.
The Observatory also fears that Mr. Rahman may be subjected to further acts of torture and ill-treatment while under remand. It recalls that Mr. Rahman was already tortured in police custody in 2010 and 2013, which resulted in injuries to his face and shoulder which still plague him today. Sources linked to the government and law enforcement officials have indicated that Mr. Rahman will likely be subjected to additional ill-treatment or torture while under remand if he does not confess to the latest criminal accusations against him.
Accordingly, the Observatory reiterates its call to the authorities of Bangladesh to release Mr. Mahmudur Rahman immediately and unconditionally and to drop all charges against him, as they seem only aimed at sanctioning his human rights activities. Pending his release, the Observatory further urges the Bangladeshi authorities to guarantee Mr. Rahman’s physical and psychological integrity.
Background information :
Mr. Mahmudur Rahman has been detained since April 11, 2013, after he was charged with sedition and unlawful publication of a Skype conversation between International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) Judge Md Nizamul Huq and an external consultant in December 2012. At the time of his arrest, the Amar Desh office and its press were raided by the police, journalists and press-operators were beaten and driven out, and the press building was sealed. It has remained closed since. From April 11 to 24, 2013, Mr. Rahman was subjected to torture while in police custody.
On August 13, 2015, Mr. Mahmudur Rahman was sentenced to three years in prison by a Dhaka Court for charges brought against him in 2010 by the Bangladesh’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), which accused him of failing to submit his wealth statement.
Prior to his arrest in 2013, Mr. Rahman had already been the target of judicial harassment in relation to defamation and sedition cases brought against him by the Bangladeshi authorities, notably for publishing a report on alleged corruption practices of the Prime Minister and her relatives. He was subjected to torture and ill-treatment while he was arbitrarily detained in relation to these charges from June 2010 to March 2011.
The Government has now mounted 73 fabricated and politically motivated cases against Mr. Rahman. Over the past three years, he has had to travel three to four times a week from Kashimpur Jail 2 to the court of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Dhaka, for hearings on these cases. Each journey, covering a total distance of almost 100 kilometres a day, took more than four hours each way in a hot and humid prison van with very little ventilation. This type of ill-treatment was especially concerning due to 63 year-old Mahmudur Rahman’s health, as he suffers from various ailments aggravated by the torture he suffered while in police custody and over three years of confinement at Kashimpur Jail 2. In addition, his family members - including his wife and his mother - have also been threatened and harassed by the Government.
Please write to the authorities in Bangladesh, urging them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Mahmudur Rahmanas well as of all human rights defenders in Bangladesh;
ii. Drop all charges against Mr. Mahmudur Rahmanand, in the meantime, ensure that any judicial proceedings against him are carried out in full compliance with the defendants’ right to a fair trial, as protected under international law;
iii. Release Mr. Mahmudur Rahmanimmediately and unconditionally, since his detention is arbitrary as it only aims at curtailing his human rights activities;
iv. 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;
v. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Bangladesh.
·Ms. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 8113243, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
·Professor Dr. Gowher Rizvi, Adviser to the Prime Minister (International Affairs), Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 9111312 Email: email@example.com
·Mr. Asaduzzaman Khan, State Minister for Home Affairs of Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 9515541. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
·Mr. Anisul Huq, Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs of Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 7168557. Email: email@example.com
·Md. Shahriar Alam, State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 9562188. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
·Mr. Mahbubey Alam, Attorney General for Bangladesh, Email: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org
·Embassy of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 646 59 98; Email: email@example.com
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.