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 punish and silence their human rights activities.
On August 24, 2023, the Cyber Tribunal of Dhaka announced that the verdict in the case of Adilur Rahman Khan, who’s also member of the OMCT General Assembly and FIDH Secretary General, and ASM Nasiruddin Elan, would be issued on September 7, 2023. If found guilty, they could face up to 14 years in prison.
During the August 24 hearing, the defence brought to the attention of the court that the second Investigation Officer had submitted a supplementary investigation report under Sections 57 (1) and 57 (2) of the ICT Act, 2006, as amended in 2013. The first investigation report had been submitted against the two defenders on September 3, 2013, under a previous version of the ICT Act, amended in 2009.
The Observatory recalls that in 2013, 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 being released on bail on October 11 and December 1, 2013. The police brought new charges under Section 57 of the ICT Act, 2006 (as amended in 2009), which prescribed a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. In 2013, another amendment to Section 57 raised the maximum penalty to 14 years’ 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 began the trial in the case against the two defenders and on October 5, 2021, commenced the examination of prosecution witnesses. The court concluded the examination of witnesses on 5 April 2023, but then allowed the prosecution to submit an application for additional investigation without specifying what component of the case would be subject to further investigation. The judge overruled the objections of the defendants’ lawyers against the investigation after the conclusion of the examination of the witnesses and falsely stated that the decision was made with the consent of both parties.
The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) was assigned to conduct “further investigation” after the announcement of the conclusion of the examination of the witnesses without valid reason.
The additional investigation report of the CID was submitted to the Metropolitan Magistrate Court on June 22, and Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan appeared in court on July 9, and then on July 17, in a hearing to examine the new witnesses identified in the CID’s additional investigation report – of which they only received a copy on July 16. New prosecution witnesses were therefore presented in court on July 17 and 20, without providing enough time for the defence to prepare for cross-examination. This violates the Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Bangladesh has ratified, along with internationally recognised fair trial standards, and in particular, the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare one’s defence.
The Observatory reiterates its deepest concern about the Bangladeshi authorities’ systematic crackdown on human rights defenders who speak out against rampant human rights violations in the country, as well as the numerous violations of international law during this trial.
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 them.
How You Can Help
Please write to the authorities of Bangladesh, asking them to:
- Put an end to all acts of harassment – including at the judicial level – against Adilur Rahman Khan, ASM Nasiruddin Elan, and all human rights defenders in Bangladesh, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;
- Guarantee in all circumstances Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan’s right to a fair trial and the independence of judges and lawyers;
- Ensure an enabling legal, institutional, and administrative environment that effectively guarantees the right to defend human rights and protects human rights defenders in Bangladesh.
- Ms. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Email: email@example.com
- Md. Tofazzel Hossain Miah, Principal Secretary of the Prime Minister’s office, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
- Professor Dr.Gowher Rizvi, Adviser to the Prime Minister (International Affairs), Bangladesh. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com
- Mr. Asaduzzaman Khan, State Minister for Home Affairs of Bangladesh. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mr. Anisul Huq, Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs of Bangladesh, Email: email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Md. Shahriar Alam, State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh. Email: email@example.com
- Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Bangladesh, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mr. Amin Uddin, Attorney General for Bangladesh, Email: email@example.com
- H.E. Mr. Mohammad Sufiur Rahman, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Embassy of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh in Brussels, Belgium, Email: email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Bangladesh in your respective country.