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Urgent Interventions

Mahmudur Rahman should be allowed to travel for medical treatment


Paris-Geneva-Hong-Kong,December 23, 2016 - Bangladesh’s SupremeCourt has so far refused to grant journalistMahmudur Rahman, recently released from 1,322 days in arbitrary detention, theright to travel abroad for urgent surgery, despite the serious risk ofirreversible neurological damage he faces. The Observatory for the Protectionof Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT) and the Asian Human Rights Commission(AHRC) call on the Chief Justice to authorise Mr. Rahman’s travel withoutfurther delay.

WhenMr. Mahmudur Rahman, Acting editor of the Daily Amar Desh, anational daily newspaper in Bangladesh, was released on bail from Kashimpur Jail on November24, 2016, he was directly transferred to United Hospital in Dhaka for medicalassessment and treatment, as his health had severely deteriorated during hisprolonged arbitrary detention due to ill treatment and lack of access to propermedical care. After several days of medical examinations, doctors at UnitedHospital concluded that Mr. Rahman, 64 years old, was suffering from a varietyof ailments including hypertension; vitamin deficiency, vertigo, intestinalbleeding and serious weight loss. Most importantly, he was diagnosed withspondylosis of his cervical and lumbar spine which prevents him from sleepingor walking properly. The expert neurosurgeon at United Hospital concluded thatMr. Rahman had to undergo urgent surgery to address this spinal problem, preferablyabroad since the medical facilities available in Bangladesh are inadequate toaddress this issue.

Followingthis diagnosis, Mr. Rahman’s family contacted a renown neurosurgeon in theUnited Kingdom, who upon analysing Mr. Rahman's medical file, also concludedthat if he does not undergo surgery soon, he is at risk of permanentneurological damage to his sciatic nerves. The neurosurgeon therefore referredMr. Rahman to a specialist in London who could perform the surgery andcontacted the British Embassy in Bangladesh to request that they facilitate Mr.Rahman’s travel to the UK to undergo surgery.

AsMr. Rahman’s passport has been confiscated by the Bangladeshi authorities, hislawyers presented a petition on December 12, 2016 before the Appellate Divisionof the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, asking for the authorities to return Mr.Rahman’s passport. Disregarding the multiple expert medical opinions that hasalready concluded that Mr. Rahman requires urgent medical intervention abroad,the Chief Justice ordered Mr. Rahman to pay for another examination by aMedical Board organised by the Director of the Dhaka Medical College andHospital to determine whether Mr. Rahman requires surgery abroad. It must benoted that this Hospital is run by the Ministry of Health, and its Director isa Brigadier General in the military, which leads to credible concerns about thepolitical neutrality of this Medical Board, especially since Mr. Rahman is awell-known critic of the Government.

Thedesignated Medical Board is set to examine Mr. Rahman on December 26, 2016 andto submit their report to the Supreme Court shortly thereafter. It will then beup to the discretion of the Chief Justice to order Mr. Rahman’s passport to bereturned and that he be allowed to travel abroad for surgery. Our organisationscall on the Chief Justice to order that Mr. Rahman be allowed to travel abroadfor urgent surgery, in order to end his continuous physical suffering andprevent further medical problems including permanent damage to his nerves. Wealso call on the British authorities to facilitate Mr. Rahman’s visa and travelto the UK so that he may be able to undergo this urgent surgery.

The Observatory for theProtection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 byFIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of thisprogramme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression againsthuman rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of,the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented byinternational civil society.

The Asian Human RightsCommission (AHRC) works towards the radical rethinking and fundamentalredesigning of justice institutions in order to protect and promote humanrights in Asia. Established in 1984, the Hong Kong based organisation is aLaureate of the Right Livelihood Award 2014.

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