BANGLADESH: AHRC replies to the Chairperson of NHRC 

An Open Letter from the Asian Human Rights Commission to the Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh; case of Mr. Razzak justifies AHRC’s position about the NHRC of Bangladesh ‘The ridiculous role of the NHRC in a completely collapsed rule of law system.

Prof. Mizanur Rahman
Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission
11th Floor, Gulfeshan Plaza
8, Shahid Sangbadik Selina Parvin Sarok
Mogbazar, Dhaka 1217

Fax: + 880 2 8333219

Dear Sir:

Re: Your office letter dated 6 November 2012 to the Asian Human Rights Commission

Thank you for acknowledging the receipt of a copy of our Annual Report for the year 2011. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) wishes to reiterate that the conclusions arrived at in this report is based on our analysis of human rights promises and performances in the states covered by the report. This analysis is based on factual data made available to the AHRC and verified to be correct through our own means. Hence we wish to inform you that on basis of our analysis, we believe that our depiction of the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh, that you chair, mentioned in the Annual Report – 2011 and cited in your letter is factually true.

Concerning the case that you have cited in your letter we wish to once again bring to your attention the following:

1. The NHRC of Bangladesh is constituted under Act No. 53 of 2009. This law mandates the NHRC to function under the remit of the Paris Principles. This requires the NHRC, as it is the case of similar institutions globally, to function impartially and that the processes adopted by the NHRC while adjudicating complaints strictly to follow the principle of audi alteram partem. Your letter is unfortunately an iteration of means by which the NHRC has negated this cardinal principle.

2. You may recall that I, along with human rights defenders and journalists from Bangladesh and another lawyer from India, Mr. Jijo Paul, had visited your office representing the AHRC, soon after a complaint regarding the attack upon Mr. F M A Razzak was filed before the NHRC. During this meeting, held at your office at the NHRC, you assured that the NHRC would adjudicate the case, strictly abiding by the principles of law, equality, justice and transparency and that you would visit the complainant in the case, Mr. Razzak, at the hospital where he was undergoing treatment in Dhaka to record his statement.

3. You further assured that if it is personally difficult for you to meet the complainant and record his statement, that you would make arrangements through your office so that the complainant’s statement is recorded by the NHRC. I wish to bring to your attention that even as of today, nobody has recorded the complainant’s statement. The AHRC wishes to seek clarification as to under what mandate that you as a Chairperson of the NHRC have arrived at unwarranted and unsubstantiated conclusions concerning the character of Mr. Razzak?

4. In page 3 of your letter to the AHRC you claim, “using false identity as a journalist, advocate, human rights activist he always try to draw the attention of international community and in this way, he tries to camouflage his ill-deeds directed towards self-aggrandizement.” The AHRC wishes to know, under what authority have you come to such wanton and illegal conclusion regarding the character of a person that you have neither spoken to nor met so far in your life. The AHRC also wishes to bring to your attention that your above opinion is about a citizen of Bangladesh, whom you are by law, mandated to protect his rights including dignity and freedom. If Mr. Razzak were to sue you for damages for defamation we are afraid, that as an individual, you might not have any impunity from prosecution.

5. The AHRC wishes to bring to your attention Chapter III of Act No. 53 of 2009, Section 14 where the NHRC is required by law to offer both the petitioner and the respondent equal opportunities to adduce evidence, verify with the veracity of the evidence produced before the NHRC required to ensure fairness and transparency in the NHRC’s proceedings. The essence of the same argument is reiterated in Section 19 (3) of Act No. 53 of 2009 where the NHRC must “provide a copy of the enquiry report to the aggrieved person or his representative.” Your office is yet to provide any copy of the reports that you have liberally depended upon to substantiate your claims in your letter to the AHRC. Mr. Razzak, the complainant before the NHRC, has not received any communication or report or summons or a final order from the NHRC as of today.

6. The AHRC, like any other human rights organisation interested in the welfare of human rights defenders and protection of human rights, wishes to know the procedure your office has adopted when you accepted the reports of government agencies without open verification or offering the opportunity to the complainant to verify the contents of the report that you have depended upon. This is an issue gaining gravity when these reports are filed by agencies in which one of the respondents in the case is employed with or having control of, which the complainant has averred in his complaint before the NHRC.  The AHRC is certain that you are aware that failing to follow procedures would be considered as biased and partial that it negates the premises of justice, when you accept the reports sent in by government agencies as conclusive proof against a complainant before your Commission in a case where the complainant has prima facie accused state agents of having committed human rights abuses against the complainant. Or is it the case that the NHRC does not have any written procedures that it follows? Under what mandate can the NHRC justify concluding a case purely on the basis of reports filed by the government, when the complaint before the NHRC is also against a government servant among others?

7. While the AHRC reserves its opinion about the human rights organisation that you have allegedly sought opinions from regarding Mr. Razzak’s case, we wish to inform you that Razzak was not interviewed by this organisation before or after this organisation sent the report that you as Chairperson of the NHRC has depended upon to decide against Razzak in his complaint. The AHRC wishes to reiterate that the NHRC has failed to provide a copy of this report to Razzak for his comments, if any.

8. The AHRC is also aware about a detailed report filed by the Department of Special Branch of Bangladesh Police to the government that entirely negates the findings arrived at by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), UNO of Paikgachha and the RAB Forces’ Central Headquarters. In this report, which the AHRC has a copy, it is categorically stated that Major Mr. Mustafizur Rahman Bokul and his family is behind the assault upon Razzak and that the Major Mustafizur has used his influence as a military officer in the locality not only to prevent the police from acting against such an attack, but also names the police officers who have both assisted Major Mustafizur and his family in attacking Razzak. The report concludes with a warning to the government that this incident will lead into a law and order situation, in which the entire community in the locality that is outside the influence of Major Mustafizur and his gang of thugs have taken to the street repeatedly in support of Razzak and against the criminal nexus the police entertains with Major Mustafizur.

9. All the reports that you have cited in your letter to the AHRC concerning Mr. Razzak’s complaint are alien and out of information to Mr. Razzak, the complainant in the case. At the AHRC we also have in our possession the copy of a report from the Office of the District Magistrate of Khulna on the basis of an inquiry conducted by a Committee, comprising the Additional Deputy Commissioner (Revenue) of Khulna, Upazila Nirbahi Officer cum Assistant Commissioner of Land of Paikgachha and Upazila Social Service Officer of Pakigachha, dated 10 April 2012 following an order of a Division Bench of the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. The AHRC wishes to place on record that the conclusion you have made in your letter to the AHRC contradicts the report of the District Magistrate of Khulna, which was submitted to the High Court Division Bench on 24 April 2012.

10. The AHRC wishes to place on record that your assertion, that Mr. Razzak has used, “false identities as a journalist, advocate, human rights activist . . . ” are fundamentally wrong. Razzak was a journalist active in Khulna and it is precisely for this reason all respectable media and their scribes in Khulna protested publicly in solidarity with Razzak on more than one occasions after Razzak was attacked. Mr. Razzak has also served as the President and the Secretary of the Paikgachha Press Club. Mr. Razzak is a lawyer on the rolls of the Bangladesh Bar Council. These two facts are verifiable by the NHRC and without doing so the NHRC has accepted false reports against the complainant and has openly taken character assassinating position of a citizen of Bangladesh is reason legitimate enough to justify the title that the AHRC has rightly used concerning the present functioning of the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh that you chair currently.

11. The United Nations’ General Assembly Resolution 53/144 dated 8 March 1999 titled Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of the individuals, groups and organs of society to promote and protect universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, define who a human rights defender is. To summerise the Declaration, a human rights defender is a person who works for the promotion and protection of human rights. The Declaration encompasses professional as well as non-professional human rights defenders including volunteers, journalists, lawyers and anyone else carrying out, even on an occasional basis, a human rights activity.

12. The AHRC is certain that the NHRC would have no doubt as to the fact that citizens like Razzak are indeed human rights defenders of Bangladesh of whose rights must be protected just as it is concerning any other citizen of Bangladesh, and that it is the duty of the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh. The AHRC finds it unfortunate that under your Chairmanship the NHRC of Bangladesh has failed to fulfil this mandate.

13. Your letter further points out the fundamental mistake made by you, as the Chairperson of the NHRC, while deciding the case filed by Razzak which is to take adverse inference that human rights is a concept and an enforceable right pegged upon the morality of an individual. All free individuals and convicts are entitled to their human rights. This is based on the universal norm, that the only qualifier to claim fundamental human rights is to be human. It is unfortunate to read from your letter that, as a Chairperson of the NHRC, you do not entertain this view.

It is on the basis of AHRC’s experience of having to engage with the NHRC concerning Razzak’s case and several other cases since you have assumed office as a Chairperson of the NHRC that we have come to the rightful conclusion about the nature of the institution that you currently chair. We wish to reiterate that during your predecessor’s time in office, human rights organizations like the AHRC were able to substantially assist the work of the NHRC since the Chairperson was fully aware of the mandate that the NHRC was expected to discharge, and did discharge despite having much less conveniences and facilities to function as opposed to the conditions today. By this it implies that the state of affairs at the NHRC has deteriorated since you have assumed to office, which is a matter of concern not only for the AHRC but also for everyone interested in the protection and promotion of human rights in Bangladesh.

We hope that you, as a Chairperson, would take immediate steps to change this so that Act No. 53 of 2009 that constituted the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh finds meaning in letter and spirit.

Sir, human rights work requires seriousness and moral qualities that make one capable of defending the dignity and the freedom of the individuals against the power of the state and other powerful forces. Your letter does not reflect such seriousness and such quality. Slander writing and human rights reporting are activities vastly different. You have stooped down rather too low, that we feel anxious as to how and who would really defend the cause of human rights of your people, in a place where they undergo daily much hardship from violations of human rights committed by state agencies like the RAB and other state agencies. Unfortunately your letter and its contents do not reflect the real purpose for which the institution that you chair currently as its Chairperson was created.


Bijo Francis
Interim Executive Director
Asian Human Rights Commission

Document Type : Open Letter
Document ID : AHRC-OLT-018-2012
Countries : Bangladesh,
Issues : Human rights defenders, Rule of law,