Arbitrary detention of Bangladeshi rights activist condemned

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The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) has expressed grave concern over the arbitrary detention of prominent human rights defender Adilur Rahman Khan of Bangladesh.

Adilur Rahman Khan
Adilur Rahman Khan

An open letter to Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh

Re: Arbitrary detention of Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan, Secretary of Odhikar and a member of OMCT General Assembly

Your Excellency,

The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), through the voice of all the undersigned, members of its General Assembly, is writing to you to express its grave concern over the arbitrary detention since 10 August 2013 of Adilur Rahman Khan, Secretary of the human rights non-governmental organisation Odhikar, OMCT network member in Bangladesh and, like us, a member of OMCT General Assembly.

Khan is also an Executive Committee Member of Forum Asia and has been the Deputy Attorney General during the erstwhile four-party alliance government.

On 10 August 2013, at 10.20 pm, Adilur Rahman Khan was arrested by men in plain clothes who said they were of the Detective Branch of Police (DB) as he was returning at his Gulshan residence in Dhaka with his family. The Dhaka Metropolitan Police subsequently confirmed the arrest to the media.

On 11 August 2013, Adilur Rahman Khan was brought before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court (CMM), where the complaint against him was read by the Public Prosecutor. The complaint, which was only handed over to his lawyers after Khan was presented before the Court, was signed by the Dhaka Metropolitan Police.

The police lodged two General Diaries against him on 10 August 2013, one (General Diary number 268) by the Detective Branch of Police (North) under Section 54 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and the other (General Diary number 514) by the Gulshan police station.

Khan was also charged under clauses 1 and 2 of Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act 2006 for publishing false images and information and disrupting the law and order situation of the country, in relation to a fact-finding report issued by Odhikar about the killing of 61 people during an operation carried out on 5-6 May 2013 by law enforcement agencies against Hefazat-e Islam activists at the Dhaka’s downtown Motijheel area.

The complaint also alleged that there would be reasonable suspicion that Khan is also directly and indirectly liable for other cognisable offences.

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The Public Prosecutor sought a ten-day remand against Adilur Rahman Khan while his lawyers sought bail.

The Magistrate, Judge Amit Kumar Dey, rejected the bail petition and placed Khan on a five-day remand for interrogation.

Khan was then taken back to the Office of the Detective Branch (DB) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police at 36 Minto Road, in Dhaka.

Furthermore, on 11 August 2013, the Odhikar office was searched by DB police between 8.20pm and 9.00pm. They inspected the files and documents and then seized three laptops and two CPUs from Odhikar’s office.

On 12 August 2013, the High Court of Bangladesh stayed the five-day remand order to interrogate Adilur Rahman Khan and asked police to send him to jail.

A High Court vacation bench comprised of Justice Borhanuddin and Justice Kashifa Hossain, however, allowed the Detective Branch to interrogate Khan at the Dhaka Central Jail gate premises, if necessary.

The court passed the order after hearing a writ petition filed by Khan, challenging the legality of the remand order granted by Judge Amit Kumar Dey of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court.

The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), the leading global network of civil society organisations against torture, summary executions, enforced disappearances and all other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the world, is concerned that the detention of Adilur Rahman Khan directly results from his exercise of universally recognised human rights, in particular the right to freedom of expression and freedom of association (which includes the right, individually or in association with others, to promote and protect human rights).

Those rights are protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 20), the United Nations Declaration on the Rights and Responsibilities to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 19 and Article 22).

As members of OMCT General Assembly, we are concerned that Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan’s detention only aims at sanctioning and preventing his activities as a human rights defender, therefore contradicting international human rights standards and Bangladesh’s obligations.

Accordingly, we respectfully urge Your Excellency to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Adilur Rahman Khan, to fully ensure safeguards against torture and ill treatment during his detention and interrogation as well as to release him immediately and unconditionally. In the meantime, please guarantee Mr. Khan’s full access to his lawyers and family, as well as to an independent medical counsel. We also ask you to permit access to international observers.

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We hope that the concerns expressed in this letter will receive the attention they deserve and we would welcome your prompt responses on these matters.

Yours sincerely,

Yves Berthelot

President

Gerald Staberock

Secretary General

Members of OMCT General Assembly

ABU AL-ZULOF George
ALAYZA Ernesto
ARRIAGA Luis
ASSAF Georges
BENABDESSELAM Abdel-ilah
BODNAR Adam
CANTON Santiago Alejandro
CHUKWUMA Innocent
De MESA Teodoro
DIALLO Oumar
DIEYE Aminata
DIMITRAS Panayote
DOEK E. Jaap
DOUGAN BEACA José
DUTOUR Nassera
GHAEMI Hadi
GOMEZ ZULUAGA Alberto L.
GROVER Vrinda
HARRIS Theresa
JENDOUBI Kamel
KHIDASHELI Tinatin
MARTY Dick
MASIKA BIHAMBA Justine
MEDRANO AMADOR Celia
MESSAOUD Boubacar
MOHOCHI Sam
O’CONNOR Florizelle
O’FLAHERTY Michael
PALMIERI Gustavo
QUIROGA CARRILLO Jahel
SABER Karim
SADOVSKAYA Olga
SAMAYOA Claudia
SHIRAISHI Osamu
TIPHAGNE Henri
TRAVIS Anthony
TRIFI Mokhtar
XIA Renee
YUNUS Leyla

Copies to:

– H.E. Mr. Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir, Minister for Home Affairs, via Email: mkalamgir@yahoo.com; minister@mha.gov.bd;
– Barrister Shafique Ahmed, Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, via Email: info@minlaw.gov.bd
– Mr. Hasanul Haq Inu, Minister of Information, via E-mail: minister@moi.gov.bd
– H.E. Dr. Dipu Moni, Minister of Foreign Affairs, via Fax: 9562188 & 7171433 and Email: fm@mofa.gov.bd; dr.dipumoni@gmail.com; shanchitahaque@yahoo.com
– Mr. Hasan Mahmud Khandaker, Inspector General of Police, via Email: ig@police.gov.bd
– Dr. Mizanur Rahman,
Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission Bangladesh, via 
Fax: +88 028333219
and Email: nhrc.bd@gmail.com
– H.E. Mr. Abdul Hannan, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to the United Nations in Geneva, via Fax: +41 22 738 46 16 and E-mail: mission.bangladesh@ties.itu.int

OMCT update: 16 August 2013

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

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing arbitrary detention of Adilur Rahman Khan, Secretary of the human rights non-governmental organisation Odhikar and a member of OMCT General Assembly.

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According to the information received, on 13 August 2013, Adilur Rahman Khan was sent to Dhaka Central Jail by the Chief Metropolitan Magistrates Court (CMM), in accordance with the order issued by the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh on August 12 (see background information). Three hours later, he was transferred to Kashimpur Jail number 1, on the outskirts of Dhaka city. Although his lawyers applied for “division” in the jail, the application was summarily rejected. The Observatory is concerned that this might be an indication that the judicial process against Mr. Khan might not be independent. Khan’s legal team now plans to appeal to the Sessions Court against the refusal of the application for “division”.

On 15 August, Khan’s wife went to visit him. As Adilur Rahman Khan has not been granted division, he shares a cell with four other inmates. They have basic mattresses, which are riddled with bed bugs and share a toilet. Food is bought from the jail canteen with their own funds.

The Observatory reiterates its deepest concern about Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan’s arbitrary detention, which seems to merely aim at sanctioning his peaceful human rights activities, and calls upon the authorities in Bangladesh to guarantee in all circumstances his physical and psychological integrity as well as to release him immediately and unconditionally.

Furthermore, the Observatory is concerned by information it received according to which the Government would be planning to close down Odhikar, accusing it of being an anti-State organisation. It is to be further feared that other members of Odhikar might be arrested in connection with the case filed against Mr. Khan, for interrogation, if it is required.

Accordingly, the Observatory urges the authorities of Bangladesh to put an end to the harassment against Odhikar, a prominent human rights NGO that since its inception in 1994 has been showing its commitments towards a just and proper cause of human rights. Activities of Odhikar include reporting, advocacy and fact-finding activities on violations considered “sensitive” – such as disappearances, torture, political violence, etc. As a result of these activities, Odhikar is under constant watch by the government.

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