Bangladesh: Imminent and serious death threats against Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan

10/08/2015
Press release

The Observatory has been informed with great concern by reliable sources about imminent and serious death threats against Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan, Odhikar Secretary and a member of OMCT General Assembly, and his relatives.

New information:

This happens in the worrisome context where authorities publicly threatened Odhikar, a member association of both OMCT and FIDH, and the Bangladesh Human Rights Commission (BAMAK) for acting illegally and subversively, simply for having published reports on extrajudicial killings supposedly committed by the authorities[1] (see background information).

The Observatory calls upon the authorities of Bangladesh to guarantee in all circumstances the protection of life, physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan, his relatives and all Odhikar members, and to put an immediate end to any act of harassment against him, his relatives and the organisation.

Background information:

On August 2, 2015, the Media and Public Relations wing of the Police Headquarters in Dhaka issued a statement condemning newspaper reports on extrajudicial killings which cited Odhikar, a member organisation of OMCT and FIDH, and BAMAK. The Press Release, which is entitled "Police did not commit extrajudicial killings. Statements of Odhikar and BAMAK are unlawful; only subversive campaigns", affirms that the statements made by the two organisations “contravene the existing laws of Bangladesh, which is synonymous to challenging Rule of Law and the judicial system”

The Police Press Release further states that questioning the activities of the police threatens the reputation of the police and amounts to defamation and a criminal act, and may be considered as a subversive activity.

Furthermore, on February 5, 2014, at approximately 4:00 pm, two men on a motorcycle followed a family member of Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan from his home till Gulshan - 2 crossing. When the family member realised that a motorcycle had been following the car from the time it had left the house, the car turned back and returned home. The motorcycle followed it home and parked next to the building, which is also housing the office of Odhikar. When Odhikar staff asked them who they were, they replied that they were staff of a nearby office and worked with a ‘Mr. Mahmood’ .When asked to show their identity cards, theyrefused to do so and sped away. Odhikar contacted the mentioned office and were told that there was no one called Mahmood working there.

The Observatory recalls that Odhikar and human rights defenders who are associated with the organisation across the country have been under constant surveillance by the intelligence agencies due to their human rights activities in Bangladesh. Those acts of surveillance increased after the re-assuming of power by the Awami League through contested parliamentary elections on January 5, 2014. In particular, the office of Odhikar, located in Gulshan, Dhaka, and its staff are being monitored, reportedly by officers of the Detective Branch of the Police.

Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan and his family members further reported to be under constant watch by the Special Branch of Police, and some of the men who are monitoring Odhikar office have questioned the security guard and other staff of the building housing the office about Mr. Khan. On January 13, 2014, one of the men who followed Mr. Khan’s relative on February 5 had asked the security guard the time when Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan goes to the court, whether he goes out of the house in the evenings (Mr. Khan lives in the same building as Odhikar) etc. When the security guard asked him who he was, he introduced himself as ‘Rayhan’ from the Special Branch of Police.

The Observatory is greatly concerned by those acts of harassment against Odhikar and in particular against Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan and his relatives, as those acts seem to merely aim at sanctioning and silencing the human rights activities of this organisation. Odhikar is a prominent human rights NGO that since its inception in 1994 has been showing its commitments towards the universality of human rights. Activities of Odhikar include reporting, advocacy and fact-finding activities on violations considered “sensitive” - such as disappearances, torture, political violence, etc.

The Observatory recalls that Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan as well as Odhikar Director ASM Nasiruddin Elan are currently facing charges under Section 57 of the Information andCommunication Technology (ICT) Act 2006 (amended in 2009), 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.

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 and on 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 above-mentioned Odhikar report. 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, Mr. Khan was finally released on bail from Kashimpur Jail number 1.

On November 6, 2013, Mr. Nasiruddin Elan was 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.

On January 8, 2014, the Cyber Crimes Tribunal framed charges against Messrs. Adilur Rahman Khan and Nasiruddin Elan under Section 57 of the ICT Act 2006 (amended in 2009)

On January 15, 2014, the legal team acting on behalf of Messrs. Khan and Elan filed an appeal challenging the framing of charges. On January 21, 2014, the High Court ordered a three-month stay of the trial at the Cyber Crimes Tribunal and called for the records to be brought up for examination. The Attorney General’s office later said that he will challenge the stay order in the Chamber Judge’s Court of the Appellate Division

Furthermore, the Observatory is concerned by further acts of harassment against Odhikar, particularly through the NGO Affairs Bureau (NGOAB), which is under the Prime Minister’s Office and is putting barriers on releasing funds for Odhikar human rights projects which had already been approved by the NGOAB.

Action requested:

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

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

ii. Put an end to any kind of harassment - including at the administrative and judicial level - against Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan, all members of Odhikar, their relatives as well as all human rights defenders in Bangladesh;

iii. Ensure in all circumstances that Odhikar as well as all human rights defenders in Bangladesh are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iv. 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”;

v. 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

· Professor Dr. Gowher Rizvi, Adviser to the Prime Minister (International Affairs), Old Sangsad Bhaban, Tejgaon, Dhaka 1215, Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 9111312 Email: advinternational@pmo.gov.bd
· Mr. Asaduzzaman Khan, State Minister for Home Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, Bangladesh Secretariat Building 8, 1st and 3rd florr, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 9515541. Email: stateminister@mha.gov.bd

· Mr. Anisul Huq, Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Bangladesh Secretariat, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 7168557. Email: minoflaw@law.com

· Md. Shahriar Alam, State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Segun Bagicha, Dhaka 1000, Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 9562188. Email: fm@mofa.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, August 8, 2015

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.

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[1]See the Observatory’s Press Release of August 4, 2015.

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