Bangladesh: charges framed against Messrs. Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan

10/01/2014
Urgent Appeal

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources that charges were framed against Messrs. Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan, respectively Secretary and Director of the human rights non-governmental organisation Odhikar. Mr. Rahman Khan is also a member of OMCT General Assembly.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH (the International Federation for Human Rights), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bangladesh.

New information:

According to the information received, on January 8, 2014, Messrs. Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan appeared before the Cyber Crimes Tribunal. Messrs. Khan and Elan’s lawyers requested Judge Shamsul Alam of the Cyber Crimes Tribunal for a discharge of the application under Section 265C of the Code of Criminal Procedure1. However, the judge rejected their plea and took into cognisance the Prosecution report/charge sheet submitted by the police on September 11, 2013.

Charges were framed under Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act 2006 (amended in 2009) against Messrs. Khan and Elan, in relation to a fact-finding report issued by Odhikar on the killing of 61 people during an operation carried out by security forces against Hefazat-e Islam activists on May 5-6, 2013 in Dhaka. According to the charges, Odhikar would have distorted the information of the police operation that took place on May 5, 2013, where 11 people had died. The charges state that Odhikar would have collected information of deaths around the country, including Dhaka, which occurred on May 5-6 and put that total on their website instead. The charges further state that this would have caused extreme damage to the image of the State. Mr. Khan and Mr. Elan both pleaded not guilty and Mr. Khan further declared that the information in Odhikar report was completely accurate, adding that Odhikar had made the list of deceased persons after fact-finding and thorough verification.

Moreover, Odhikar lawyers argued that the investigating officer was not able to give sufficient proof or evidence that Odhikar’s report was incorrect. They also argued that Odhikar was not an individual, but a human rights organisation and that there was no proof that the report had been signed by any one individual. They also stated that several organisations, media and individuals had quoted various numbers of deceased Hefazat-e Islam supporters at that time. Yet, only Odhikar has been targeted by a case filed by the Government, which in addition has failed to set up an independent Judicial Inquiry Commission to investigate the events of May 2013, as proposed by Odhikar.

Judge Shamsul Alam ordered that the trial against the two human rights defenders would start on January 22, 2014 with examination of witnesses.

The Observatory is greatly concerned over the arbitrary prosecution against Mr. Khan and Mr. Elan, which only aims at sanctioning and preventing their activities as human rights defenders, therefore failing to comply with international human rights standards. Moreover, the Observatory is concerned about the delay in framing charges against Messrs. Khan and Elan, and about the fact that it took a long time to appoint a Public Prosecutor to represent the Government, which amounts to further harassment against the two defenders.

Background information:

On August 10, 2013, Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan was arrested and on August 11, he was placed on a five-day remand for interrogation. On August 12, the High Court of Bangladesh stayed the five-day remand order to interrogate Mr. Khan and asked police to send him to jail. The next day, Mr. Khan was transferred to Kashimpur Jail number 1.
 
On September 4, 2013, the Detective Branch of Police announced they had filed a charge sheet against Mr. Khan and Mr. Nasiruddin Elan under Section 57 of the ICT Act and Sections 505 (c) and 505A of the Penal Code for allegedly “distorting images by using photo shop and publishing a fabricated report, which enraged public sentiment”. The charges were brought in relation to Odhikar fact-finding report on the police operation carried out against Hefazat-e Islam activists on May 5-6, 2013 in Dhaka. If found guilty, the two human rights defenders face up to 14 years in jail or a Tk 10,000,000 (about 93,660 €) fine under the ICT Act and seven years’ jail term under the Penal Code.
 
On September 11, 2013, the Cyber Crimes Tribunal issued an arrest warrant against Mr. Nasiruddin Elan.
 
On October 8, 2013, the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh granted a six-month interim bail to Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan. On October 9, 2013, the Office of the Attorney General filed an application before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, requesting to stay the High Court’s order granting bail to Mr. Khan. However, the Chamber Judge decided on the same day to uphold the High Court Division’s decision. The Observatory recalls that the bail petition filed by Mr. Khan’s lawyer was earlier rejected three times in the same case. On October 11, 2013, at 10.30 am, Mr. Khan was finally released on bail from Kashimpur Jail number 1.
 
On November 6, 2013, Mr. Nasiruddin Elan and his lawyers appeared before the Cyber Crimes Tribunal and appealed for bail in the above-mentioned case. However, Judge Shamsul Alam rejected the plea for bail and ordered that Mr. Elan be arrested and taken to Dhaka Central Jail.

On November 24, 2013, the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh granted a six-months ad interim bail to Mr. Elan, who was finally released from jail on December 1, 2013.

Action requested:

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

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

iii. 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 Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, as well as
its Article 12.2, which provides that the State shall “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of his or her rights”;

iv. 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, Office of the Prime Minister, Gona Bhaban, Old Sangsad Bhaban, Tejgaon, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 8113243, Email: pm@pmo.gov.bd
Mr. Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir, Minister for Home Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, Bangladesh Secretariat Building 4, Dhaka, Bangladesh, Email: mkalamgir@yahoo.com; minister@mha.gov.bd;
Barrister Shafique Ahmed, Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Bangladesh Secretariat, Dhaka, Bangladesh, Email: info@minlaw.gov.bd
Mr. Hasanul Haq Inu, Honourable Minister, Ministry of Information, Building # 4 (8th floor), Bangladesh Secretariat, Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh. E-mail: minister@moi.gov.bd
Mr. Mahbubey Alam, Attorney General for Bangladesh, Attorney General’s Office, Supreme Court Premises, Dhaka, 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, 65 rue de Lausanne, 1202 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, 29-31 rue J. Jordaens, 1000 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 10, 2014

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

The Observatory, an OMCT and FIDH venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

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