We write this letter expressing our deep concern about the arbitrary arrest and harassment of Adilur Rahman Khan, prominent human rights defender and Secretary of local human rights organization Odhikar. We demand that he be immediately released from custody. The government must also ensure that he or Odhikar are not subjected to any further harassment.
As the Executive Committee member of FORUM-ASIA and an active member of FIDH and OMCT along with various international human rights NGOs, he is renowned in international human rights circles. He has been at the foreforont of fighting torture, extra-judicial killings and human rights abuses by security forces in Bangladesh.
According to reports provided by Odhikar, Adilur Rahman Khan, was picked up at his house in Gulshan, Dhaka on 10 August 2013 at 10:20pm by 8 to 9 men in plain clothes identifying themselves as belonging to the Detective Branch of Police. Adilur Rahman Khan was returning home from a relative’s house with his wife and children. When he reached his house and came out of his car, the men surrounded him and requested him to come with them.No warrant of arrest was shown and the men denied giving any information.
Despite repeated requests, Adilur Rahman Khan’s family members, colleagues and lawyers were denied any information regarding his whereabouts. Meanwhile, the media reported at around 12pm midnight that he has been held in police custody under the Information and Communication Technology Act for the publication of a fact-finding mission on the 61 people allegedly killed on 5 May 2013 by Bangladeshi security forces.
On 11 August at around 4pm, Adilur Rahman Kahn was produced in court and the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court remanded him to five days in custody. The office was Odhikar was raided later that night and documents and equipments were seized. Subsequently, the Detective Branch on 4 September 2013 announced that they have filed a charge sheet against Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan, Director of Odhikar for “distorting images by using photo shop and publishing a fabricated report, which enraged public sentiment”, under Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act. The case has been transferred to the Cyber Crimes Tribunal and he is expected to be formally charged in court on September 12 2013 and a trial date would be given.
We are deeply concerned about the safety of Adilur Rahman Khan as he faces particular vulnerability and risk of further harassment in this extended period of custody.
Therefore, we call on your government to:
1. Ensure under all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of Adilur Rahman Khan;
2. Take immediate action to release Adilur Rahman Khan;
3. Refrain from harassing Odhikar or any of the staff in Odhikar; and
4. Ensure an enabling legal and safe environment for all human rights defenders in the country to carry out their legitimate work.
We respectfully thank you for your consideration and express our sincere hope that your Excellency will take these recommendations into account.