Death threats / Harassment - BGD 002 / 0507 / OBS 041

03/05/2007
Urgent Appeal

The Observatory has been informed by Odhikar about death threats against its staff members, a human rights non governmental organisation based in Bangladesh.

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), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bangladesh.

Brief description of the situation:

According to the information received, on April 26, 2007, Lieutenant Commander Mehedi called the offices of Odhikar, informing that Captain Zubayer wanted to meet with Odhikar Acting Director, Mr. Nasiruddin Elan, at the headquarters of the Naval Intelligence Services, in order to discuss about two cases Odhikar had investigated and denounced, i.e. the death in naval custody, in Bhola, of two men, in February and March 2007 (See OMCT Urgent Appeals Case BGD 020307 and Case BGD 160407). Upon completion of its two fact-finding reports, which were signed by Mr. Nasiruddin Elan, Odhikar sent them to the Naval Chief.

On May 2, 2007, Lieutenant Commander Mehedi called Odhikar again, asking Mr. Nasiruddin Elan to go to the Navy headquarters at Banan, saying that Captain Zubayer wanted to talk with him about “two incidents of Bhola”. Mr. Nasiruddin Elan then replied to Lt. Commander Mehedi that he should send an official letter to Odhikar.

Later on that day, Lt. Commander Mehedi called back Odhikar three times, insisting upon the fact that Mr. Nasiruddin Elan should be at the Naval headquarters on May 3, 2007, at 9.00 am. He added that he would not send a letter and that Mr. Nasiruddin Elan would have to go there on verbal summon.

On May 3, 2007, a man in civilian dress, who introduced himself as a naval radio operator, came to Odhikar at 9.00 am in order to bring Mr. Nasiruddin Elan to the Naval headquarters. Forty-five minutes later, Sub-Lieutenant Enayet Hossain called the offices of Odhikar to ask whether Mr. Elan had left for the Navy headquarters or not.

At 11.00 am, Mr. Nasiruddin Elan was taken to Mr. Captain Zubayer’s office, where two navy officers were present. They were soon joined by two officers of the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), who immediately started to insult Mr. Elan and threatened him by saying: “How dare you criticise the Navy? If I kill you now who will save you?”. The others interrogated him using rough and harsh words. They further threatened Mr. Elan, saying that they knew a lot about Odhikar activities and that, if necessary, they would also interrogate Odhikar president, Mr. Hassan Arif. They also claimed that all Odhikar staff members were involved in “seditious and anti-State activities”, all of them being “traitors” and “agents of America, India and Pakistan, from where [Odhikar] receives money”. Finally, they urged Odhikar to stop all its activities and that they should “keep in mind that [they] work in a state of emergency”, therefore being “better if [they] start agricultural farming than engage in human rights activities”. Mr. Zubayer added that if Mr. Elan mentioned this meeting to anyone, he would be arrested.

At 2 pm, Mr. Nasiruddin Elan could finally leave the Navy headquarters.

The Observatory is deeply concerned about these death threats against Mr. Nasiruddin Elan and all members of Odhikar, and fears for their physical and psychological integrity.

Actions required:

Please write to the Bangladeshi authorities urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Nasiruddin Elan as well as of all members of Odhikar;

ii. Put an end to all acts of harassment against Mr. Nasiruddin Elan, all members of Odhikar as well as all other 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” and article 12.2, which states 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 the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

iv. 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.

Addresses :

* Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed, Chief Adviser, Head of the Interim Government, Fax : +880 2 8113243, Email: Info@pmo.gov.bd
* Ministry of Home Affairs, Bangladesh Secretariat, Building 4, Dhaka, Bangladesh, Email: mediacell@homemin-bd.org
* Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Bangladesh Secretariat, Dhaka, Bangladesh, Email: info@minlaw.gov.bd
* 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@freegates.be

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

***

Geneva - Paris, May 3, 2007

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code 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.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

Email : Appeals@fidh-omct.org
Tel et fax FIDH : + 33 1 43 55 55 05 / 33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel et fax OMCT : +41 22 809 49 39 / 41 22 809 49 29

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