Home / News / Urgent Appeals / BANGLADESH: Human rights defender, Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan arbitrarily detained

BANGLADESH: Human rights defender, Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan arbitrarily detained

August 11, 2013

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-104-2013

11 August 2013
---------------------------------------------------------------------

BANGLADESH: Human rights defender, Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan arbitrarily detained

ISSUES: Arbitrary arrest and detention; ill-treatment; fabricated charges; freedom of expression and opinion; human rights defender; corruption; impunity
---------------------------------------------------------------------

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that the Detective Branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police has arrested Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan, one of most respected human rights defenders in Bangladesh and the Secretary of Odhikar. A group of plain clothed men picked up Mr. Adilur from his residence at 10:20 p.m., on 10 August 2013. Neither Adilur, nor the family was informed why they were taking Adilur into custody and where they were taking him. Later, media in Bangladesh have published reports, quoting police officers Adilur was arrested in relation to a case registered at Gulshan Police Station, for offenses punishable under the Information and Communications Technology Act, 2006. However, the Gulshan police has informed Odhikar that they had no case registered against Adilur at the station, and that the officers there learned about Adilur's arrest through the media. There is serious concern about Adilur's safety in custody. Please intervene immediately in this case, so that Adilur remains safe in custody and released without delay.

CASE NARRATIVE:

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has obtained information that, at 10:20 p.m., on 10 August, officers from the Detective Branch (DB) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) have taken into custody, Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan, one of the most respected human rights defenders in Bangladesh, from his residence in Dhaka. Adilur is the Secretary of Odhikar, a prominent human rights organisation in the country, known for its critical assessments of human rights in performance and practice, by the Government of Bangladesh. Adilur has also served as the Deputy Attorney General of Bangladesh and is a Senior Lawyer practicing at the Supreme Court.

The AHRC is in contact with Adilur's family and is provided with the following information:

At about 10:20 p.m., Adilur was returning home in his vehicle along with his wife and children. When the vehicle entered the compound of the house where the family resides, at No: 35, Road 117, Gulshan, Dhaka; an SUV and a white minibus approached the house. About 8 to 10 men in civilian dress, who came in the two vehicles, entered the compound. The security guard at the house tried to prevent the strangers from entering the compound and demanded to know who they were. The men did not bother to respond and they surrounded Adilur's car.

When Adilur came out of his car and demanded to know from the men who they are and what business they had without permission at his residence, they reportedly informed Adilur that they are from the Detective Branch of Bangladesh Police. The men then ordered Adilur to accompany them immediately. It is reported that without waiting for Adilur to respond, the men forced Adilur into their vehicle and left. Neither Adilur, nor the family was informed why they were taking Adilur into custody and where they were taking him.

It is reported that Adilur is detained at the Office of the Detective Branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, at 36 Minto Road, Dhaka. It is suspected that the reason for the government to arrest Adilur is a report Odhikar has published, after its fact-finding mission concerning the 5 May 2013 violence in Bangladesh. In the report, Odhikar has alleged, that 61 persons were killed in the violence. The Government of Bangladesh demanded Odhikar to produce proof regarding the murder of these people, with the details of the family members, who spoke to Odhikar in confidence. Fearing that the government, after receiving such information would hunt down the families who spoke about the deaths of their relatives to Odhikar, Odhikar requested the government to constitute an independent enquiry commission to probe the deaths, and assured the government that it will produce its findings before such a body and not to the government. The Government of Bangladesh has been denying any deaths in the 5 May incident and has been trying its best to silence everyone who has spoken against the killing spree that hit the country in May this year.

Adilur's son, while speaking to the AHRC has expressed serious concern about his father's safety in police custody. Adilur's wife, Mrs. Saira Rahman Khan, a barrister and Professor of Law at the BRAC University in Dhaka, has informed the AHRC that the family has convened a press conference at Odhikar's office.

Media in the country have reported, citing Mr. Masudur Rahman, Deputy Commissioner (Intelligence) and Mr. Abu Yusuf, Assistant Commissioner, of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, that there is a case against Adilur registered at the Gulshan Police Station, registered under Section 57 of the Information and Communications Technology Act, 2006. The officers however did not provide any details of the case, including its number or when it was registered. The officers also claimed that Adilur was kept in the Detective Brach Office at 36 Minto Road in Dhaka. Police officer Mr. Masudur Rahman has alleged that Adilur "…has distorted facts about Hefazat-e-Islam and distorted photographs using Photoshop…"

At 12:30 a.m., on 11 August, Odhikar went to the Detective Brach Office at 36 Minto Road, where the sentries denied them entry into the office. At 2:00 a.m., Odhikar went to the Gulshan Police Station, and the police there denied having registered any case against Adilur and claimed that they learnt about Adilur's arrest through the media.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

The AHRC is informed that the arrest is allegedly on the accusation, that Adilur has committed offences under the Information and Communications Technology Act, 2006, a legislation misused at will in Bangladesh, to silence freedom of opinion and expression, and often used by the government in violation of personal privacy and professional indemnity of the citizens.

Adilur's arrest and detention is a chilling proof of the witch-hunt the Government of Bangladesh is systematically carrying out in the country, silencing all forms of voices against the incumbent government's human rights abuses. Adilur's arrest, and the manner in which it has been carried out, is further proof to the fact that the space for human rights, free expression and opinion has drastically reduced in the country. That such arrest in Bangladesh often is accompanied by brutal forms of torture, leading to even deaths in custody, places Adilur's life and security at great peril in the hands of the state agency.

Adilur being a senior member of the Supreme Court Bar, his arrest and detention can also be viewed as unjustifiable encroachment into professional freedom and indemnity of lawyers in Bangladesh. The AHRC hopes that the Supreme Court Bar Association and the country's judiciary will not let such arrest and detention continue without being legally challenged. The AHRC urges all diplomatic missions in Dhaka to intervene in this case so that Adilur will not be ill-treated by the police or tortured in custody.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write a letter to the Government of Bangladesh to immediately release Adilur from custody. We further request the government, to ensure that Adilur is neither tortured nor inhumanly treated by the police.

Please also be informed that the AHRC is writing separate letters to the UN Special Rapporteurs on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, calling for their interventions into this matter.

To support this appeal, please click here: 

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ………………,

BANGLADESH: Release Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan immediately from arbitrary detention

Name of victim:
1. Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan, Secretary Odhikar, living in House No: 35, Road 117, Gulshan, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Names of persons involved:
1. Officers of the Detective Branch, Dhaka Metropolitan Police, 36 Minto Road, Dhaka, Bangladesh
2. Mr. Masudur Rahman, Deputy Commissioner (Intelligence)
3. Mr. Abu Yusuf, Assistant Commissioner, of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police

Date of arbitrary arrest and detention: 10 August 2013
Place of arrest: Residence of the detainee at House No. 35, Road No. 117, Gulshan, Dhaka

I am writing to express concern about the arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights defender, Mr. Adilur Raman Khan, by the Detective Branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, on 10 August 2013.

I have received the following information regarding the arrest:

At about 10:20 p.m., Adilur was returning home in his vehicle along with his wife and children. When the vehicle entered the compound of the house where the family resides, at No: 35, Road 117, Gulshan, Dhaka; an SUV and a white minibus approached the house. About 8 to 10 men in civilian dress, who came in the two vehicles, entered the compound. The security guard at the house tried to prevent the strangers from entering the compound and demanded to know who they were. The men did not bother to respond and they surrounded Adilur's car.

When Adilur came out of his car and demanded to know from the men who they are and what business they had without permission at his residence, they reportedly informed Adilur that they are from the Detective Branch of Bangladesh Police. The men then ordered Adilur to accompany them immediately. It is reported that without waiting for Adilur to respond, the men forced Adilur into their vehicle and left. Neither Adilur, nor the family was informed why they were taking Adilur into custody and where they were taking him.

It is reported that Adilur is detained at the Office of the Detective Branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, at 36 Minto Road, Dhaka. It is suspected that the reason for the government to arrest Adilur is a report Odhikar has published, after its fact-finding mission concerning the 5 May 2013 violence in Bangladesh. In the report, Odhikar has alleged, that 61 persons were killed in the violence. The Government of Bangladesh demanded Odhikar to produce proof regarding the murder of these people, with the details of the family members, who spoke to Odhikar in confidence. Fearing that the government, after receiving such information would hunt down the families who spoke about the deaths of their relatives to Odhikar, Odhikar requested the government to constitute an independent enquiry commission to probe the deaths, and assured the government that it will produce its findings before such a body and not to the government. The Government of Bangladesh has been denying any deaths in the 5 May incident and has been trying its best to silence everyone who has spoken against the killing spree that hit the country in May this year.

Adilur's son, while speaking to the AHRC has expressed serious concern about his father's safety in police custody. Adilur's wife, Mrs. Saira Rahman Khan, a barrister and Professor of Law at the BRAC University in Dhaka, has informed the AHRC that the family has convened a press conference at Odhikar's office.

I am informed that the media in the country have reported, citing Mr. Masudur Rahman, Deputy Commissioner (Intelligence) and Mr. Abu Yusuf, Assistant Commissioner, of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, that there is a case against Adilur registered at the Gulshan Police Station, registered under Section 57 of the Information and Communications Technology Act, 2006. The officers however did not provide any details of the case, including its number or when it was registered. The officers also claimed that Adilur was kept in the Detective Brach Office at 36 Minto Road in Dhaka. Police officer Mr. Masudur Rahman has alleged that Adilur "…has distorted facts about Hefazat-e-Islam and distorted photographs using Photoshop…"

I am also informed that at 12:30 a.m., on 11 August, Odhikar went to the Detective Brach Office at 36 Minto Road, where the sentries denied them entry into the office. At 2:00 a.m., Odhikar went to the Gulshan Police Station, and the police there denied having registered any case against Adilur and claimed that they learnt about Adilur's arrest through the media.

I am informed that the arrest is allegedly on the accusation, that Adilur has committed offences under the Information and Communications Technology Act, 2006, a legislation I am informed is misused at will in Bangladesh, to silence freedom of opinion and expression, and often used by the government in violation of personal privacy and professional indemnity of the citizens.

I believe Adilur's arrest and detention is a chilling proof of the witch-hunt the Government of Bangladesh is systematically carrying out in the country, silencing all forms of voices against the incumbent government's human rights abuses. The manner, in which the arrest has been carried out, is further proof to the fact that the space for human rights, free expression and opinion has drastically reduced in the country. That such arrest in Bangladesh often is accompanied by brutal forms of torture, leading to even deaths in custody, places Adilur's life and security at great peril in the hands of the state agency.

Adilur being a senior member of the Supreme Court Bar, his arrest and detention can also be viewed as unjustifiable encroachment into professional freedom and indemnity of lawyers in Bangladesh. I hope that the Supreme Court Bar Association and the country's judiciary would not let such arrest and detention continue without being legally challenged.

I therefore request you to immediately release Adilur from custody. I further request the government, to ensure that Adilur is neither tortured nor inhumanly treated by the police. I call upon the Government of Bangladesh to drop the case against Adilur immediately.

Yours sincerely,

----------------
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mrs. Sheikh Hasina 
Prime Minister 
Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh 
Office of the Prime Minister 
Tejgaon, Dhaka 
BANGLADESH 
Fax: +880 2 811 3244 / 3243 / 1015 / 1490 
E-mail: pm@pmo.gov.bd

2. Mr. Md. Muzammel Hossain 
Chief Justice 
Supreme Court of Bangladesh 
Supreme Court Building 
Ramna, Dhaka-1000 
BANGLADESH 
Fax: +880 2 956 5058 /+880 2 7161344 
Tel: +880 2 956 2792 
E-mail: chief@bdcom.com or supremec@bdcom.com

3. Mr. Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir MP
Minister
Ministry of Home Affairs
Bangladesh Secretariat
Dhaka-1000
BANGLADESH
Tel: +880 2 7169069 (O)
Fax: +880 2 7160405, 880 2 7164788 (O)
E-mail: minister@mha.gov.bd

4. Barrister Shafique Ahmed
Minister
Ministry of Law, Justice & Parliamentary Affairs
Bangladesh Secretariat
Dhaka-1000
BANGLADESH
Tel: +880 2 7160627 (O)
Fax: +880 2 7168557 (O)
Email: info@minlaw.gov.bd

5. Mr. Mahbubey Alam
Attorney General of Bangladesh
Office of the Attorney General
Supreme Court Annex Building
Ramna, Dhaka-1000
BANGLADESH
Fax: +880 2 956 1568
Tel: +880 2 956 2868

6. Mr. Hassan Mahmud Khandker 
Inspector General of Police 
Bangladesh Police 
Police Headquarters' 
Fulbaria, Dhaka-1000 
BANGLADESH 
Fax: +880 2 956 3362 / 956 3363 
E-mail: ig@police.gov.bd

7. Prof. Mizanur Rahman 
Chairman 
National Human Rights Commission 
Gulfeshan Plaza (11th Floor)
8, Sohid Sangbadik Saleena Parvin Sorok
Mogbazar, Dhaka-1217
BANGLADESH 
Tel: +880 2 9335513 
Fax: +880 2 8333219
E-mail: nhrc.bd@gmail.com


Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

Document Actions
Share |
Subscribe to our Mailing List
Follow AHRC
Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.