January 14, 2014
Odhikar calls all International Human Rights Defenders to stand next to it
As it fights oppression and barriers to its activities.
Odhikar and human rights defenders who are associated with Odhikar are under constant surveillance by the intelligence agencies due to their human rights – related activities in Bangladesh. The movement of the Secretary of the Organisation, Adilur Rahman Khan, who is an Advocate in the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, is under constant watch by the Special Branch of Police (SB). Furthermore, human rights defenders who are associated with Odhikar across the country are also under monitoring by the intelligence agencies. This has been increased after the re-assuming of power by the Awami League through debatable Parliamentary elections on January 5, 2014; which were held without the participation of the main Opposition.
On January 8, 2014 the Cyber Crimes Tribunal framed charges against Odhikar’s Secretary Advocate Adilur Rahman Khan and Director ASM Nasiruddin Elan under the Information and Communication Technology Act 2006 (amended in 2009) for publishing a fact finding report on extrajudicial killings perpetrated by law enforcement agencies during the assembly and rally of Hefazate Islam on May 5-6, 2013. On that day the Tribunal Judge K M Shamsul Alam framed charges before starting the hearing of the defense council, which is contrary to law; although the defense lawyers were later allowed to place their arguments after they demanded the right to be heard. However, the order for framing charges, before hearing the defense, questions the trial process. The Tribunal fixed the date for prosecution of witnesses on January 22, 2014.
Apart from this case, the Government is harassing Odhikar in different ways. The NGO Affairs
Bureau (NGOAB), which is under the Prime Minister’s Office is putting barriers on releasing funds for the projects related to human rights which are already approved by the NGOAB. The Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act, 2012, still in the form of a Bill yet to be approved by Parliament, was developed by amending the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Ordinance, 1978 (XLVI of 1978) and integrating the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Ordinance, 1982 (XXXI of 1982) with it. The NGOAB is imposing the proposed law on Odhikar even before it has been enacted as an Act.
Moreover, on January 1, 2014, the Assignment Officer of the NGOAB, Khandker Mohammad
Nazmul Huda Shamim has been assigned by the Bureau to investigate the activities under three ofOdhikar’s NGOAB-approved projects. Odhikar received a letter from the NGOAB on January 7,2014; and the letter clearly states that Khandker Mohammad Nazmul Huda Shamim has been
assigned only to see three, named projects. Despite this NGOAB order, he is investigating matters relating to the reserve and general funds of Odhikar, which has no relation to any foreign funds or project; and are therefore beyond his jurisdiction. His interference in this is, therefore, illegal. It appears that the government is harassing Odhikar to cancel its registration or to make uncertain the renewal process of the registration due in September 2014. Stopping one of Bangladesh’s most active human rights organisations, indicates that the government would like to gag dissenting voices so that no one will be able to protest against human rights violations by the State. This is the first time in 19 years that Odhikar and those who belong to this movement, have been treated in such an extreme manner; despite the fact that the Organisation has been equally active against human rights violations during all regimes.
Odhikar has been playing a significant role in protecting human rights in Bangladesh since its inception on October 10, 1994. Odhikar is under threats and intimidation by the State due to its commitment to the human rights movement. Odhikar seeks urgent interventions from the international human rights organisations to help in stopping the unlawful pressure on Odhikar from the Bangladesh Government. Odhikar also urges the international community to create public opinion around the world, raising these issues in the UN Human Rights Council; urging the Government to withdraw the case filed against Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan under the ICT Act; ensure the safety and security of Odhikar and all human rights defenders; and to repeal the Information and Communication Technology Act 2006 (amended in 2013), which is contradictory to the freedom of speech and expression.
The Odhikar Team
Tel: 9888587, Fax: 9886208, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: www.odhikar.org