The ICJ calls on the Bangladeshi authorities to immediately and unconditionally drop ‘cybercrime’ charges against Nasiruddin Elan and Adilur Rahman Khan, President and Secretary of the human rights group Odhikar.
“These charges are a flagrant attempt to silence critical voices, and the Bangladeshi authorities must immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against the two human rights defenders,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Asia director.
On 8 January 2014, a cyber crimes tribunal in Dhaka indicted Nasiruddin Elan (picture, on centre) and Adilur Rahman Khan under section 57 (1) and (2) of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act, 2006, for publishing “fake, distorted and defamatory” information. Khan and Elan plead innocent to the charges.
The charges relate to a report by Odhikar that alleged that security forces had killed 61 people during a rally by the Islamist group Hefazat-e Islam in May 2013. The Government disputes the casualty numbers.
The trial is set to begin on 22 January 2014. Under the terms of the newly amended ACT the two human rights defenders face a minimum of seven and maximum of 14 years imprisonment.
“The ICJ has warned that the ICT Act can be used to attack freedom of expression in Bangladesh,” said Sam Zarifi. “As predicted, the Government is now using the newly amended law to silence political and public discourse through the threat of punitive sentences and deliberately vague and overbroad offences in clear violation of international law.”
In a briefing paper released on 20 November 2013, ICJ highlighted that provisions of the 2006 ICT Act (amended 2013), particularly section 57, violate Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Bangladesh ratified on 6 September 2000: the offences prescribed are poorly defined and overbroad; the restrictions imposed on freedom of expression go beyond what is permissible under Article 19(3) of the ICCPR; and the restrictions are not necessary and proportionate to achieve a legitimate purpose.
In addition, the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders underscores that States must take all necessary measures to protect human rights defenders “against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of his or her rights.”
Sam Zarifi, ICJ Asia-Pacific Regional Director, (Bangkok), t: +66 807819002; email: sam.zarifi(a)icj.org
Ben Schonveld, ICJ South Asia Director, t: +61 422 561834; email: ben.schonveld(a)icj.org
Adilur Rahman Khan was arrested his home on 10 August 2013 without an arrest warrant.On August 11, a Magistrate’s Court refused his bail application and remanded him for five days of custodial interrogation.
On August 12, the High Court Division of the Supreme Court stayed the remand order and directed that Adilur Rahman be sent back to jail, where he could be interrogated ‘at the gate of the jail.’
On 4 September 2013, the Detective Branch of Police filed a charge sheet against Adilur Rahman Khan and Odhikar’s Director, Nasiruddin Elan, under Section 57 of the International Communication and Technology Act 2006. On 30 October Adilur Rahman Khan was released on bail. On 6 November 2013, a Dhaka cyber crimes tribunal rejected Nasiruddin Elan’s bail application and ordered his detention in Dhaka Central Jail. Bail was granted on 24 November by the High Court. But the bail order was finally enforced after the appellate division’s order on 3 December 2013.NewsWeb stories