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Prominent Bangladeshi human rights defenders convicted, sparking international outcry

FORUM-ASIA and its member organizations express solidarity with Bangladeshi human rights defenders, Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan, following their conviction by the Dhaka Cyber Tribunal.

The defenders, known for their work with Odhikar, have faced persistent harassment since revealing extrajudicial killings in 2013. FORUM-ASIA calls for their immediate release and urges Bangladesh to respect human rights and uphold international commitments.

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DHAKA, BANGLADESH: The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), in collaboration with its member organisations, has issued a joint statement to stand in firm solidarity with distinguished Bangladeshi human rights defenders, Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan.

This follows the alarming news of their recent conviction to two years of imprisonment and a subsequent fine by the Dhaka Cyber Tribunal.

Adil and Elan are well-recognised for their relentless efforts at Odhikar, a leading organisation monitoring civil and political rights infringements in Bangladesh.

Their extensive work has captured significant instances of human rights transgressions, ranging from extrajudicial executions to grievous violence against women and minorities.

The duo, and by extension Odhikar, have been subjected to persistent judicial harassment since 2013.

This came in the wake of a report they released, revealing the extrajudicial killing of 61 individuals during a single-night clampdown on demonstrators.

In retaliation, authorities framed Adil and Elan with charges under Section 57 of the Information and Communications Technology Act of 2006, accusing them of disseminating “false and defamatory electronic information.”

Both faced prolonged periods of arbitrary detention before securing bail, with Adil detained for 62 days and Elan for 25.

Odhikar, along with its esteemed members Adil and Elan, has been a frequent target of orchestrated slander campaigns in response to their human rights activism.

Their organisation’s registration faced non-renewal in 2022 by the NGO Affairs Bureau (NGOAB), pointing to purportedly ‘erroneous information’ they published on extrajudicial executions. This decision was further backed by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Speaking on the matter, Mary Aileen Diez-Bacalso, FORUM-ASIA’s Executive Director, said, “The conviction, especially during the 25th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights Defenders, epitomises an alarming trend to suppress dissent and target the foundational values of democracy and rule of law. Bangladesh’s actions in this matter gravely conflict with their international obligations.”

It is critical to highlight that Bangladesh’s government has shown minimal initiative in addressing recommendations from prior Universal Periodic Reviews.

Many of these recommendations, chiefly focusing on the protection of human rights defenders from intimidation, have been largely ignored.

FORUM-ASIA, along with its allied bodies, is urging the Bangladesh government for the immediate and unconditional release of Adil and Elan.

They are appealing to the authorities to respect the rights of human rights defenders and ensure their safety.

The consortium stresses the importance of refraining from the criminalisation of human rights activities and calls on the government to honour its international commitments, encompassing the rights to free expression, association, and peaceful assembly.

Signatories of joint statement

  1. Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)
  2. AWAZ Foundation Pakistan: Centre for Development Services (AWAZCDS)
  3. Balay Alternative Legal Advocates for Development in Mindanaw (BALAOD-Mindanaw), The Philippines
  4. Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), India
  5. Bir Duino, Kyrgyzstan
  6. Bytes for All, Pakistan
  7. Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD), Mongolia
  8. Civil Society and Human Rights Network (CSHRN), Afghanistan
  9. Defence of Human Rights (DHR), Pakistan
  10. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  11. Human Rights Measurement Initiative (HRMI), New Zealand
  12. International Legal Initiative Public Foundation (ILI Foundation), Kazakhstan
  13. Informal Sector Service Center (INSEC), Nepal
  14. Karapatan Alliance Philippines (Karapatan)
  15. Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law (KIBHR)
  16. Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
  17. Maldivian Democracy Network
  18. National Center Against Violence (NCAV), Mongolia
  19. Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
  20. People’s Watch, India
  21. PhilRights
  22. People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), South Korea
  23. Public Association “Dignity”, Kazakhstan
  24. Pusat KOMAS, Malaysia
  25. Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP)
  26. Think Centre, Singapore
  27. Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC), Nepal

 

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