BANGLADESH: Immediately implement bail order for Odhikar Director

Urgent Appeal

Geneva-Paris, November 29, 2013. The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, call for the immediate release of Mr. ASM Nasiruddin Elan, the Director of human rights non-governmental organisation Odhikar.

On November 24, 2013, the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh ordered six-months ad interim bail to ASM Nasiruddin Elan. At the hearing, Deputy Attorney General Abdullah Al Mamun opposed Mr. Elan’s bail by stating he was a flight risk and that if released, he would destroy evidence. On October 8, 2013, Additional Attorney General Momtazuddin Fakir had used the same arguments to oppose the bail of Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan, Secretary of Odhikar and a member of OMCT General Assembly, who was detained from August 11 to October 11, 2013 in relation to the same case.

Yet, Mr. Nasiruddin Elan remains detained in Kashimpur Jail-2, although the bail order was signed by the Judges of the High Court, the bail bond was sent for confirmation to the Metropolitan Sessions Judge and then to Dhaka Central Jail to be forwarded to Kashimpur Jail (as Kashimpur is under the authority of the former). On November 29, 2013, Deputy Jailor Amanullah of Kashimpur Jail-2 informed Odhikar that although they have received the Court’s order dated November 24 granting Mr. Elan’s bail, they also have received “specific instruction” from the Attorney General’s office not to release him now. Therefore Mr. Elan will now have to wait until December 1 before jail officials receive further instructions from the Attorney General’s office about his release, which is a clear violation of fundamental rights and the flouting of the Court’s order.

Delaying release is nothing else but an additional harassment of the members of Odhikar and qualifies as arbitrary detention for which the State of Bangladesh should be liable”, noted Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General. “This tactic of protracting bail is also a serious assault on the judiciary that casts further doubts on the authorities willingness to comply with basic rule of law standards in this case”, he added.

Moreover, although the Cyber Crimes Tribunal was to finally frame charges against Messrs. Nasiruddin Elan and Adilur Rahman Khan on November 28, 2013, Mr. Elan was not brought to the Tribunal from Kashimpur jail due to the country-wide blockade.

The Observatory recalls that any form of arbitrary detention under Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights must be compensated by the State. It is also concerned about continuous failures to ensure due process, as the defence has yet to be given certified copies of all documents submitted to the Tribunal from the prosecution - even though the required applications and fees had been paid. The Judge stated again that he would pass an order about this matter, and fixed the next date of appearance for the hearing of the charges on December 18, 2013.

The Observatory recalls that Messrs. ASM Nasiruddin Elan and Adilur Rahman Khan are being prosecuted in a case filed by the Government under Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act, 2006 (amended in 2009) and under Sections 505 and 505A of the Penal Code, in relation to a fact-finding report issued by Odhikar on the killing of 61 people during an operation carried out on May 5-6, 2013 by security forces against Hefazat-e Islam activists in Dhaka. If found guilty, they might face up to 14 years in jail or Tk 10,000,000 (about 93,660 €) fine under the ICT Act and seven years’ jail term under the Penal Code.

The prosecution against Messrs. Nasiruddin Elan and Adilur Rahman Khan is arbitrary since it only aims at sanctioning and preventing their activities as human rights defenders. Accordingly, the authorities of Bangladesh should immediately put an end to it and to any harassment against Odhikar and its members”, concluded Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.

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