Bangladesh: Death threats against Mr. Shahanur Islam Saikot - BGD 001 / 0309 / OBS 051

Urgent Appeal

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources, including ODHIKAR, of threats received by Mr. Shahanur Islam Saikot, Secretary General and Executive Director of the Bangladesh Centre for Human Rights and Development (BCHRD), Programme Manager of Legal and Human Rights Affairs at the Bangladesh Institute of Human Rights (BIHR) and Bangladesh Rehabilitation Centre for Trauma Victims (BRCT), as well as a member of the Bangladesh Bar Council and Bar Association in Dhaka District.

According to the information received, on March 18, 2009, at 11.15 am, Mr. Shahanur Islam Saikot received a phone call while he was working at BIHR. The call came from a person who identified himself as “Billu” and who started to verbally abuse him. When Mr. Islam Saikot asked about the reason for such a call and rude language, “Billu” threatened to murder him.

On March 19, 2009, Mr. Saikot received a call from the same phone number and the caller, who once again identified himself as “Billu”, threatened him again and told him to “get mentally prepared for his death”. On the same day, Mr. Islam filed a complaint at the Peltan police station to report on the threats he had received.

On February 28, 2009, at 11.30 am, Mr. Shahanur Islam Saikot had already received a phone call at BIHR. The call came from a person who identified himself as “Pintu” and who started to verbally abuse him. “Pintu” also threatened to murder Mr. Islam Saikot with a gunshot in the head. At 11.32 am, Mr. Islam Saikot received a second phone call from the same caller. On this occasion, “Pintu” once more threatened to kill him and told him to get mentally prepared for his death.

Subsequently on February 28, 2009, in light of the aforementioned incidents, Mr. Islam Saikot filed a complaint at the Peltan police station, reporting on the threats he had received and calling for the immediate arrest of the alleged perpetrator. After filing this complaint, the officer in charge sent policemen at his office to ensure his protection. According to the information received, the police could not trace out the caller.

On March 1, 2009, at 9.52 am, “Pintu” called again and threatened to murder Mr. Islam Saikot, saying he would come immediately to kill him.

Mr. Islam Saikot had already received death threats in 2008. For instance, on August 29, 2008, an unidentified person called him while he was working at BIHR, and asked for his identity and location. Since Mr. Islam Saikot did not reveal such information, the caller replied stating that he was a “higher authority of law enforcing agencies” and that he would come to his home and subject him to punishment. The caller ended the conversation stating that Mr. Islam Saikot would be facing more suffering soon.

After the threats received by Mr. Islam Saikot in 2008 and 2009 and the complaints he lodged, the authorities launched several investigations to enquire about the nature of such incidents. However, as of issuing this urgent appeal, no progress had been made and the perpetrators had not been identified and brought to justice.

The Observatory expresses its deepest concern about these death threats against Mr. Islam Saikot, which seem to merely aim at sanctioning his human rights activities. In particular, as a lawyer, Mr. Islam Saikot filed cases on custodial torture against some officers on behalf of BIHR and the police officers involved had allegedly tried to bribe him. Mr. Islam Saikot believes they could have involved a third party to threaten him in order to refrain from those cases. The Observatory fears that without a proper investigation into the above-mentioned threats - so that those responsible be brought to justice - a climate of impunity might encourage further physical or verbal attacks against Mr. Islam Saikot and, more generally, against human rights defenders.

Actions requested:

Please write to the Bangladeshi authorities urging them to:

i. take all necessary measures to guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Shahanur Islam Saikot;

ii. order a prompt, effective, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned death threats, the result of which must be made public, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal and apply to them the penal sanctions provided by the law;

iii. put an end to all acts of harassment against Mr. Shahanur Islam Saikot as well as against all human rights defenders in Bangladesh;

iv. comply with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or collectively, to promote the protection and fulfilment of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, as well as Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually or 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 the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

v. guarantee the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other international human rights instruments ratified by Bangladesh.


· Mr. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Office of the Prime Minister, Tejgaon, Dhaka, Bangladesh, Fax: +880 2 811 3244 / 3243 / 1015 / 1490,

E-mail: or

· Mr. Mohammad Ruhul Amin, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Bangladesh, Supreme Court Building, Ramna, Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh, Fax: +880 2 956 5058

· Barrister Shafik Ahmed, Minister, Ministry of Law, Justice & Parliamentary Affairs, Bangladesh Secretariat, Dhaka-100, Bangladesh, Fax: +880 2 7168557 (O)

· Ms. Shahara Khatun, Minister, Ministry of Home Affairs, Bangladesh Secretariat, Dhaka-1000 Bangladesh, Fax: +88-02-7160405, 88-02-7164788 (O)

· Mr. Mahbube Alam, Attorney General of Bangladesh, Office of the Attorney General, Supreme Court Building, Ramna, Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh, Fax: +880 2 956 1568

· General Moeen U Ahmed, Chief of Army Staff, Bangladesh Army, Army Headquarters,Dhaka Cantonment, Dhaka, Bangladesh, Fax: +880 2 875 4455, E-mail:

· Mr. Nur Mohammad, Inspector General of Police (IGP), Bangladesh Police, Police Headquarters’, Fulbaria, Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh Fax: +880 2 956 3362 / 956 3363, E-mail:

· Mr. Hassan Mahmud Khandokar, Director General (DG), Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), RAB Headquarter, Uttara, Dhaka, Bangladesh, Fax: +880 2 896 2884 (O), E-mail:

· Ambassador M. Debapriya Bhattacharya, 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:

· 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:

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Bangladesh in your respective countries.


Geneva - Paris, March 23, 2009

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

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

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