Bangladesh: Call for the release of two human rights defenders unjustly detained

Credits: Odhikar

72 human rights organisations stand in solidarity with Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan, two prominent Bangladeshi human rights activists from the Odhikar group, after they were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment as retaliation for their human rights work.

October 3, 2023. - On 14 September 2023, Adilur Rahman Khan, Secretary of Odhikar, as well as a member of the OMCT General Assembly and FIDH Secretary General, and ASM Nasiruddin Elan, Director of Odhikar, were sentenced to two years in prison and a fine, following ten years of relentless judicial harassment. The two men were remanded at Dhaka Central Jail. Khan and Elan’s lawyers plan to appeal the decision once the court has issued its written judgment, which could take months.

The case was launched after Odhikar, a member of the OMCT SOS-Torture Network and of the FIDH, published an investigative report documenting extrajudicial killings by the State in response to a protest in May 2013. In 2013, Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan were arbitrarily detained for 62 and 25 days respectively before being released on bail. Since then, they have been subjected to continuous judicial harassment, with Bangladeshi courts repeatedly dismissing their requests without serious legal grounds, prosecuting witnesses without the consent of the defendants’ lawyer or allowing them enough time to prepare for cross-examination, in clear violation of the internationally recognised right to a fair trial.

The Bangladeshi authorities accelerated hearings in their case following the adoption of US sanctions against the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), a notoriously abusive paramilitary organisation, and its leaders in December 2021, as they blamed human rights groups such as Odhikar for this outcome. Over the years, Khan and Elan, as well as Odhikar, have been subjected to smear campaigns, criticised, and demonised by the government for their human rights work. Odhikar’s registration was finally denied for renewal in June 2022 after being pending for eight years.

In Bangladesh, human rights violations committed by the security forces, including enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and torture, remain rampant throughout the country, with absolute impunity. Instead of prosecuting and punishing those who document and expose human rights violations, the government should investigate and hold to account the perpetrators of these violations.

The harassment of Odhikar has been widely condemned by the United Nations Special Procedures, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Secretary-General in its latest report on reprisals, and the European Parliament.

We call on the authorities of Bangladesh to immediately and unconditionally release Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan, to overturn their convictions and to put an end to the judicial harassment to which they are subjected.

We also call on the international community to take a firm stand in support of human rights defenders in Bangladesh and to demand the release of all those behind bars as retaliation for their legitimate and unfailing work.

We stand in solidarity with Adilur and Elan.

Inspired by their courage, commitment, and resilience, we will continue to fight until they are freed and can continue their vital human rights work without fear of threat.

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  • Co-signatories

    1. ACAT Belgium - Belgium
    2. ACAT España/Catalunya- Acción de los Cristianos para la Abolición de la Tortura - Spain
    3. ACAT Germany (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture) - Germany
    4. Advocacy Forum - Nepal
    5. Al-Haq - Palestine
    6. Alliance pour l’Universalité des Droits Fondamentaux (AUDF) - Democratic Republic of Congo
    7. ALTSEAN-Burma - Myanmar
    8. Asia Alliance Against Torture (A3T) - Indonesia
    9. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) - Thailand
    10. Association Nigérienne pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (ANDDH) - Niger
    11. Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) - India
    12. Center for Prisoners’ Rights Japan (CPR) - Japan
    13. Centre d’Action Sociale, de Réhabilitation et de Réadaptation pour les Victimes de la Torture et de la Guerre - SOHRAM - CASRA - Türkiye
    14. Centre de Documentation et de Formation sur les Droits de l’Homme (CDFDH) - Togo
    15. Centro de Investigación y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CIPRODEH) - Honduras
    16. Changement Social Bénin - Benin
    17. Coalition Tunisienne Contre la Peine de Mort - Tunisia
    18. Colectivo de Abogados y Abogadas José Alvear Restrepo CAJAR - Colombia
    19. Collectif des Associations Contre l’Impunité au Togo (CACIT) - Togo
    20. Comisión Ecuménica de Derechox Humanos (CEDHU) - Ecuador
    21. Comité Vietnam pour la défense des droits de l’Homme (VCHR) - Vietnam
    22. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) - India
    23. Defender Center for Human Rights - Libya
    24. DITSHWANELO - The Botswana Centre for Human Rights - Botswana
    25. Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) - Egypt
    26. Ethiopian Human Rights Defenders Center (EHRDC) - Ethiopia
    27. Federal Association of Vietnamese Refugees in the Federal Republic of Germany - Germany
    28. Fundación Regional de Asesoría en Derechos Humanos (INREDH) - Ecuador
    29. Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) - Greece
    30. Human Rights Association (IHD) - Türkiye
    31. Human Rights Centre ZMINA – Ukraine
    32. Human Rights Defenders Alert India (HRDA) - India
    33. Human Rights Movement ”Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan” - Kyrgyzstan
    34. Humanist Union of Greece - Greece
    35. Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD) - Azerbaijan
    36. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) - France
    37. Justiça Global - Brazil
    38. JusticeMakers Bangladesh in France (JMBF) - France
    39. KARAPATAN - Philippines
    40. Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law (KIBHR) - Kazakhstan
    41. Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) - Ukraine
    42. League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI) - Iran
    43. Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) - Lebanon
    44. Liga Mexicana por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos A.C (Limeddh) - Mexico
    45. Ligue Algérienne de Défense des Droits de l’Homme - Algeria
    46. Ligue Tunisienne des Droits de l’Homme (LTDH) - Tunisia
    47. Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) - Maldives
    48. Manushya Foundation - Thailand & Laos
    49. Martin Ennals Foundation - Switzerland
    50. Minority Rights Group - Greece
    51. Mouvement Lao pour les Droits de l’Homme (MLDH) - Laos
    52. Musawi - Pakistan
    53. Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) - Norway
    54. Observatoire des Droits de l’Homme au Rwanda (ODHR) - France
    55. Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones (OVP) - Venezuela
    56. OPEN ASIA|Armanshahr Foundation - Afghanistan
    57. Organisation Contre la Torture en Tunisie - Tunisia
    58. Palestinian Human Rights Organisation (PHRO) - Lebanon
    59. People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) - Republic of Korea
    60. People’s Watch - India
    61. Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) - Philippines
    62. Programa Venezolano de Educación Acción en Derechos Humanos (Provea) - Venezuela
    63. Promo LEX Association - Republic of Moldova
    64. Sectoral Transparency Alliance on Natural Resource Governance in Cebu, Inc. (STANCe) - Philippines
    65. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) - Malaysia
    66. Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression - Syria
    67. Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) - Philippines
    68. The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) - Indonesia
    69. Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG) - South Korea
    70. Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos - Guatemala (UDEFEGUA) - Guatemala
    71. Union Arabe-Aramiens en Haute Mésopotamie - Türkiye
    72. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) - Switzerland

  • Member organisations - Bangladesh

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