BGD 001 / 0813 / OBS 074.9
Judicial harassment /
November 11, 2021
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bangladesh.
The Observatory has been informed about the ongoing judicial harassment against Messrs. Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan, respectively Secretary and Director of the human rights non-governmental organisation Odhikar, in a further attempt to sanction and silence their human rights activities.
On November 9, 2021, the Cyber Tribunal of Dhaka resumed its examination of prosecution witnesses in the case brought against Adilur Rahman Khan, who is also a member of OMCT General Assembly and FIDH Secretary-General, and ASM Nasiruddin Elan in Case No. 1 of 2013. The case was filed against the two in relation to a fact-finding report issued by Odhikar documenting extrajudicial killings by security forces and law enforcement agencies during a protest in May 2013.
The Observatory recalls that following the publication of Odhikar’s fact-finding report, Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan were arbitrarily detained for 62 and 25 days respectively, before they were both released on bail on October 11 and December 1, 2013. However, instead of dropping the case, the police brought new charges under the notorious Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act, 2006 (amended in 2009). If found guilty, Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan could each face up to seven years of imprisonment.
On February 14, 2021, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh rejected Odhikar’s appeal to quash the cybercrime case on its legal merits. On September 12, 2021, the Cyber Tribunal of Dhaka resumed the trial in the case against the two defenders and on October 5, 2021, it started to examine prosecution witnesses in the case. The next hearing is now set to take place on November 24, 2021.
The Observatory expresses its deepest concern over the ongoing harassment of Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan, which manifestly aims at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities.
The Observatory is all the more concerned that since the case was transferred to the Cyber Tribunal of Dhaka in January 2017, the latter has failed to uphold fair trial principles in this case. There has been notably a lack of transparency regarding the publicity of its decisions. It is also concerning that when Mr. Khan and Mr. Elan’s lawyers sought permission from the court to examine separately the prosecution witness who testified against the two defendants on October 5, namely Detective Branch Police Officer Mr. Mohammad Ashraful Islam (who lodged the General Diary Entry and the First Information Report at Dhaka’s Gulshan police station in August 2013 and was also the investigating officer of the case), the court only replied that the witness could be called at a later date to be cross-examined.
The Observatory further recalls that since 2013, attacks, surveillance, smear campaigns and harassment against Odhikar and its staff and management have been incessant. Odhikar is also facing serious difficulties to implement its activities, since its registration has not been renewed by the NGO Affairs Bureau of the Government of Bangladesh and is still pending since 2015. All of its bank accounts have been frozen and it has been forbidden from receiving foreign funding, impacting considerably its operations.
The Observatory strongly condemns the ongoing judicial harassment of Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan and reiterates its deepest concern about the authorities of Bangladesh’s systematic crackdown on human rights defenders and journalists who speak out against rampant human rights violations taking place in the country, including through the use of the Digital Security Act - 2018, the Special Powers Act - 1974, and other draconian laws.
The Observatory urges the authorities to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan and to put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against all human rights defenders in Bangladesh.
Please write to the authorities of Bangladesh to urge them to:
i. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Adilur Rahman Khan, ASM Nasiruddin Elan, and all human rights defenders in Bangladesh, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;
ii. Guarantee in all circumstances Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan’s right to a fair trial as well as the independence of judges and lawyers;
iii. Ensure an enabling legal, institutional and administrative environment that effectively guarantees the right to defend human rights and protects human rights defenders in Bangladesh.
- Ms. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Email: email@example.com
- Professor Dr.Gowher Rizvi, Adviser to the Prime Minister (International Affairs), Bangladesh. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mr. Asaduzzaman Khan, State Minister for Home Affairs of Bangladesh. Email: email@example.com
- Mr. Anisul Huq, Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs of Bangladesh, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Md. Shahriar Alam, State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh. Email: email@example.com
- Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Bangladesh, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
- Mr. Amin Uddin, Attorney General for Bangladesh, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- H.E. Mr. Abdul Hannan, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, E-mail: email@example.com
- Embassy of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh in Brussels, Belgium, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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, November 11, 2021
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
- E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
- Tel OMCT +41 22 809 49 39
- Tel FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18
 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.