Detention of Human Rights Activists in Bangladesh Sparks Global Concern
East and South Asia Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
The recent sentencing of prominent human rights defenders, Adilur Rahman Khan and A.S.M Nasiruddin Elan, by the Cyber Tribunal of Dhaka has ignited international apprehension and sparked debates surrounding the protection of human rights activists in Bangladesh (Shaikh Azizur Rahman, 15 September 2023; FIDH, 14 September 2023; Front Line Defenders, 14 September 2023).
Adilur Rahman Khan and A.S.M Nasiruddin Elan, both affiliated with the renowned human rights organization Odhikar, were each sentenced to two years in prison and fined 10,000 Bangladeshi Taka for their involvement in the publication of a fact-finding report and images concerning the police action during a Hefajat-e-Islam rally in Motijheel on May 5, 2013 (Shaikh Azizur Rahman, 15 September 2023; Front Line Defenders, 14 September 2023). These convictions have raised concerns over the state of human rights in Bangladesh and the treatment of individuals involved in documenting human rights violations.
Their ordeal began in 2013 when they were arbitrarily detained, with Khan held for 62 days and Elan for 25 days (FIDH, 14 September 2023). Subsequently, they continued to face prosecution and judicial harassment on allegations that their 2013 report was "fake, distorted, and defamatory" (FIDH, 14 September 2023). This prolonged legal battle was further exacerbated by the acceleration of court proceedings following the imposition of US sanctions against the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and its officials, a move that implicated human rights organizations like Odhikar (FIDH, 14 September 2023).
The convictions of Adilur Rahman Khan and A.S.M Nasiruddin Elan have far-reaching implications for human rights defenders and organizations in Bangladesh (Shaikh Azizur Rahman, 15 September 2023; FIDH, 14 September 2023; Front Line Defenders, 14 September 2023). Their case has been marked by due process violations, including the withholding of crucial information from the defense until the day before a hearing (FIDH, 14 September 2023). This raises concerns about the fairness and transparency of the legal process in Bangladesh, which are essential components of the protection of human rights.
Furthermore, the Bangladeshi government's actions against Odhikar have not been limited to the persecution of its leaders. The government has obstructed the organization's ability to operate by blocking access to funds and delaying the renewal of its registration (FIDH, 14 September 2023). This has had a chilling effect on human rights organizations and defenders, who may now fear similar reprisals for their work in documenting and exposing human rights violations (FIDH, 14 September 2023; Front Line Defenders, 14 September 2023).
In conclusion, the convictions of Adilur Rahman Khan and A.S.M Nasiruddin Elan raise serious concerns about the state of human rights and the treatment of human rights defenders in Bangladesh. The case underscores the need for a fair and transparent legal process that upholds international standards of justice and respects the rights of those who work tirelessly to protect human rights (Shaikh Azizur Rahman, 15 September 2023; FIDH, 14 September 2023; Front Line Defenders, 14 September 2023). It also highlights the importance of international attention and solidarity in safeguarding the rights and safety of human rights activists worldwide.
Shaikh Azizur Rahman. (15 September 2023). Imprisonment of Top Rights Activists in Bangladesh Triggers Global Outrage. VOA. Available at https://www.voanews.com/a/imprisonment-of-top-rights-activists-in-bangladesh-triggers-global-outrage-/7270927.html.
FIDH. (14 September 2023). Bangladesh: Quash conviction and release rights defenders. Available at https://www.fidh.org/en/region/asia/bangladesh/bangladesh-quash-conviction-and-release-rights-defenders.
Front Line Defenders. (14 September 2023). Human rights defenders Adilur Rahman and A.S.M Nasiruddin Elan sentenced to jail for two years. Available at https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/human-rights-defenders-adilur-rahman-and-asm-nasiruddin-elan-sentenced-jail-two-years.