Bangladesh: judicial harassment against prominent HRDs continues as proceeding resumesEvent
- Initial Date
- Nov 9, 2021
- Event Description
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.
- Impact of Event
- Gender of HRD
- Enactment of repressive legislation and policies
- Judicial Harassment
- Rights Concerned
- NGO staff
- Monitoring Status
- Event Location
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On 9 November 2021, Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan, respectively Secretary and Director of the human rights NGO Odhikar, had their 2013 trial resumed with new witnesses being summoned in relation to charges filed against them under the repressive Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act, by the Cyber Tribunal of Dhaka, Bangladesh.