Dhaka urged to end harassment of rights group

New York, Jan 16: Bangladeshi authorities should drop criminal charges against two senior members of the human rights group Odhikar and end the harassment of its workers, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists said Thursday.

Odhikar published a report on security forces abuses in June 2013. The international community should speak up and press the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to end its harassment and intimidation of Odhikar, a joint statement by the groups said.

Adilur Rahman Khan and Nasiruddin Elan, the secretary and director of Odhikar respectively, have been charged under the Information and Technology (ICT) Act for publishing a report on violence and fatalities at the hands of government forces during a protest May 5-6, 2013.

The report alleged that 61 people were killed in the overnight protest, a figure the government vehemently denies.

Khan was arrested Aug 11 and detained for 62 days before the high court overruled the lower courts and granted him bail.

Police also raided the Odhikar offices and confiscated computers and other materials.

Elan was initially denied bail during his first appearance in court on Nov 6. They are both now released on bail, pending a hearing Jan 22.

Said Polly Truscott of Amnesty International: “When a credible human rights organization like Odhikar reports on alleged human rights violations, Bangladeshi authorities should listen instead of trying to silence an important voice.

“The government should ensure an impartial investigation, allowing for all sides to share information, and the effective protection of witnesses.”

IANS