Urgent Interventions

Threats and reprisals against Ms. Shampa Goswami


BGD 002 / 0912 /OBS 086

Threats / Harassment /Suspension


September 13, 2012

The Observatory for the Protection of Human RightsDefenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) andthe International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bangladesh.

Descriptionof the situation:

TheObservatory has been informed by reliable sources about the reprisals againstMs. Shampa Goswami, a staff member of the NGO Odhikar working on violenceagainst women. She is among the most active human rights defenders at the locallevel working with Odhikar. She has been instrumental in creating awarenessabout incidents of violence against women and mobilizing local women in thearea.

Accordingto the information received, on September 10, 2012, Ms. Goswami was suspendedfrom her job as a teacher in Mozahar Memorial Secondary School at Kaligonj inthe district of Satkhira, Khulna Division.

In May 2011, Ms. Goswami paid several visits to an elderly woman inhospital victim of a gang rape, and advised her to file a complaint to thepolice. After four men were arrested for the gang rape several days later, aman living near Ms Goswami’s home called on her and contended that since she wasworking for human rights she should intervene and get the men released. The sameman repeatedly pressed her, including through phone calls, to intervene ontheir behalf despite her ignoring him.

On October 23, 2011, Ms. Goswami was sexually harassed in front of ashop by four men. They were later joined by a group of a dozen men who directedher to follow them. When she refused, they threatened to hand her over to thepolice, and snatched her cell phone when she tried to call the police stationherself. She was forced to follow them to a nearby building where one of heryounger brother’s friend had already been taken. The men took pictures of bothof them, verbally harassed and intimidated them, and threatened to send thepictures to the press if she did not give them money. Ms. Goswami informed themthat she was a human rights defender working with Odhikar, which theydisparaged.

On October 25, 2011, Ms. Goswami filed a complaint with Satkhira PoliceStation accusing ten men in relation to those acts. The First InformationReport (FIR) accused them of the crimes of unlawful assembly, wrongfulconfinement, theft and criminal intimidation, under Sections 143, 342, 379, 506of the Penal Code respectively. On November 2, 2011, some local human rightsdefenders formed a human chain in support of Ms. Goswami and submittedmemorandums to the Deputy Commissioner and Superintendent of Police in Satkhiradistrict to protest the incident. Meanwhile, police submitted a charge sheet inthe Court against the ten accused persons. After this incident, the accused andtheir families verbally abused Ms. Goswami.

In the meantime, the father of one of the ten men accused in thecomplaint filed by Ms. Goswami, and Mr. Abdul Hamid, a member of the SchoolManagement Committee, attempted to pressure Ms. Goswami into withdrawing thecomplaint. Instead, she registered a complaint in the police log book (GeneralDiary) with Kaligang Police Station on March 24, 2012. As a result, Mr. AbdulHamid and four of his associates threatened to suspend Ms. Goswami from herjob, distorted photos of her by replacing her head with that of an unknown man,and circulated the picture via phones and through the Internet. After Ms.Goswami lodged another General Diary on June 28, 2012 to protest those actions,the police arrested Mr. Abdul Hamid and one of his associates. Both weresubsequently released on bail. No information was provided to the Observatoryregarding the status of this complaint.

On August 30, 2012, the school head teacher, Mr. Lutfar Rahman, sent aletter to Ms. Goswami alleging “anti-social and unethical activities”. Ms.Goswami responded to the letter on September 4, 2012.

The Observatory condemns the harassment and threats against Ms. Goswamiand urges the judicial authorities to take the required legal actions.Moreover, it deplores Ms. Goswami’s suspension from her job and requests theschool authorities to reinstate her in her position and ensure her safety.

Actions requested:

Please write to the Bangladeshi authorities urgingthem to:

i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychologicalintegrity of Ms. Goswami and of all human rights defenders in Bangladesh;

ii. Order an immediate, thorough, effective andimpartial investigation into the wrongful confinement,theft and intimidationof Ms. Goswami and apply the penal sanctions provided by the law to those heldresponsible for those acts;

iii. Immediately and unconditionally reinstate Ms. Goswami in her formerposition as a teacher;

iv. Put an end to all acts of harassment against all human rightsdefenders in Bangladesh, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able tocarry out their work without hindrances;

v. Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the Declarationon Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United NationsGeneral Assembly, in particular:

- its Article 1, whichstates that “everyone has the right, individually or in association withothers, to promote the protection and realization of human rights andfundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”,

- its Article 9.1, whichstates that “in the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms,including the promotion and protection of human rights as referred to in thepresent Declaration, everyone has the right, individually and in associationwith others, to benefit from an effective remedy and to be protected in theevent of the violation of those rights”,

- Article 12.1, whichforesees that “everyone has the right, individually and in association withothers, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of humanrights and fundamental freedoms”,

- and its Article 12.2which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure theprotection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and inassociation with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de factoor de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as aconsequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in thepresent Declaration”;

i. Guarantee the respect of human rights andfundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration on HumanRights and other international human rights instruments ratified by Bangladesh.


· Ms. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister, Office ofthe Prime Minister, Gona Bhaban, Old Sangsad Bhaban, Tejgaon, Dhaka,Bangladesh, Fax:+880 2 8113243, Email:

· Ms. Sahara Khatun, Minister for Home Affairs,Ministry of Home Affairs, Bangladesh Secretariat Building 4, Dhaka, Bangladesh,Email:;

· Barrister Qamrul Islam, Minister for Law,Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Ministry of Law, Justice and ParliamentaryAffairs, Bangladesh Secretariat, Dhaka, Bangladesh, Email:

· Mr.Hasan Mahmud Khandaker, Inspector General of Police, Police Headquarters,Phoenix Road, Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh, Email :

· Ambassador Mr. Abdul Hannan, Permanent Missionof the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to the United Nations in Geneva, 65 ruede Lausanne, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 738 46 16, E-mail:

· Mr. Ismat Jahan, Embassy of the People’sRepublic of Bangladesh in Brussels, 29-31 rue J. Jordaens, 1000 Brussels,Belgium, Fax: +32 2 646 59 98; Email:

· Mr.Nurul Islam Nahid, EducationMinister, Building # 6, Floor # 17th & 18th, BangladeshSecretariat, Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh, Fax: 88-02-7167577, email:

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


Paris-Geneva,September 13, 2012

Kindlyinform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in yourreply.

Tocontact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

· Email:

· Tel and fax FIDH:+33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / (01) 43 55 18 80

· Teland fax OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39 / 41 22 809 49 29