The Bangladesh government must stop the oppression of civil society groups and activists, as well as withdraw the de-registration of Odhikar!
On June 5, the NGO Affairs Bureau, under the prime minister of Bangladesh (hereafter referred to as the NGO AffairsBureau), canceled the registration request for Odhikar.
The NGO Affairs Bureau made this decision on the grounds that Odhikar published misinformation about human rights violations and extrajudicial killings, which caused the abasement of the government of Bangladesh worldwide.
Founded in1994, Odhikar, a Bangladesh NGO, has been conducting various activities to investigate and document human rights violations in Bangladesh and to protect human rights. In addition, it has been working to promote human rights in Bangladesh through cooperation with international organizations, including the United Nations and civil society organizations around the world. In particular, Odhikar has carried out the investigation and released of its outcomes on extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances allegedly committed by the Bangladesh Rapid Action Battalion and the Bangladesh government after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took office in 2009. Also, they provide legal aid for victims and survivors. For these activities, Adilur Rahman Khan, secretary-general of Odhikar, received the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights in 2014.
The NGO Affairs Bureau has withheld a decision on this since Odhikar applied for registration renewal in September 2014. Due to this, Odhikar has been severely restricted in carrying out human rights activities. In May 2019, Odhikar’s chairperson C.R. Abrarfiled a lawsuit against the revocation of registration, and on May 13, 2019, the court ordered a response within two weeks, but the NGO Affairs Bureau had not implemented it for the past three years. In 2021, when the US Treasury Department issued Executive Order 13819 against the Rapid Action Battalion and its six leaders (sanctions against the property of persons involved in serious human rights violations and corruption), the Bangladesh government shifted responsibility to Odhikar. On March 1, 2022 the Supreme Court commenced a trial on the lawsuit filed by Odhikar in 2019, and a decision was made to cancel the registration.
In addition, the Bangladesh government charged Adilur Rahman Khan, the secretary, and Nasiruddin Elan, the director of Odhikar, and arbitrarily detained them to limit their activities. This was because the two activists broke the law (i.e., Article 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act 2013), acting in the electronic form to reproduce false, obscene material or material that is defamatory to the state, religion, orindividual. Currently, this case is on trial at the Cyber Tribunal-Dhaka.
Such judicial sanctions against Odhikar and its activists are clear retaliatory actions carried out by the Bangladesh government and indicate the difficulties human rights activists in Bangladesh face. Also, these decisions are undermining human rights activities in Bangladesh.
The May 18 Memorial Foundation and the Network of Laureates of Gwangju Prize for Human Rights express concern about the Bangladesh government’s attacks, surveillance, and repression against human rights activities. We call for the guarantee offree activities for human rights and civil society organizations.
Accordingly, we strongly criticize the Bangladesh government’s decision to cancel the registration of Odhikar and demand the following from the Bangladesh government:
1. Immediately reinstate the registration of Odhikar.
2. Withdraw the indictment against Adilur RahmanKhan, the laureate of the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights and Nasiruddin Elan.
3. Stop all forms of oppression against Odhikar and human rights defenders.
4. Immediately stop the disappearing, killing, and torturing of human rights defenders, journalists, dissidents, and opposition figures.
June 23, 2022
The May 18 Memorial Foundation
Network of Laureates of Gwangju Prize for HumanRights
(Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao,W.P.J. Basil Fernando, Korea Association of Bereaved Families for Democracy, Dandeniya Gamage Jayanthi, Wardah Hafiz, Malalai Joya, Irom Sharmila Chanu, Lenin Raghuvanshi, Muneer Malik, Min Ko Naing, Sushil Pyakurel, Binayak Sen, Father Jeong-hyun Moon, H.I.J.O.S, Adilur Rahman Khan, Mothers of Khavaran, Latifah Anum Siregar, Bersih 2.0, Nguyen Dan Que, Jatupat Boonpattaraksa, Nandana Manatunga, Joanna Carino, Bedjo Untung, Arnon Nampa, Cynthia Maung, Parents Circle Families Forum - Israeli Palestinian Bereaved Families for Peace, Tempo Weekly Magazine, Sombath Somphone, Serge Bambara,Dialita Choir, Watchdoc documentary Maker)