Prominent Bangladeshi Activist Arbitrarily Arrested and Detained

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Physical Security a Concern

Adilur Rahman Kahn arrested without warrant in Bangladesh

Aug. 12.─ Adilur Rahman Kahn, Secretary of Odhikar, a leading human rights organization in Bangladesh, was arrested by the Bangladeshi Detective Branch of Police without an arrest warrant (photo) on August 10, 2013, according to an Odhikar press release. The next day, Mr. Khan was brought before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's Court. According to Human Rights Watch, he was not allowed to speak with lawyers before the hearing, and the arrest "appears to be an attempt to silence one of the Bangladeshi government's most vocal critics prior to national elections." In addition, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development reports that Mr. Khan has been the subject of harassment and intimidation by the State authorities on numerous occasions.

At the Court hearing, it was revealed that Mr. Khan was charged under the Information and Communication Technology Act for "publishing false images and information and disrupting the law and order situation of the country," according to Odhikar. The charge refers to Odhikar's fact-finding report about an incident on May 5, 2013 in Dhaka, when security forces violently attacked peaceful demonstrators in Shapla Square. The report stated that many people died in the crackdown but Odhikar refused to release the names to the government out of concern for the safety of the families of the deceased. Instead, Odhikar called for an independent commission to be established to investigate the incident, and to whom Odhikar would release the names.

The magistrate granted the Detective Branch of Police five days "remand," or custody, of Mr. Khan at the hearing on August 11. According to a press release by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on August 12, the Supreme Court changed the remand and from the police to the judiciary. However, AHRC says that his security is still a concern, since the military often supervises the lower judiciary and is well-equipped and notorious for torture and deaths of those in custody.

Mr. Khan's arrest comes at a time when space for civil society has been shrinking in the country and violent acts by the State have been increasing, according to Odhikar's Human Rights Report 2012 and Human Rights Monitoring Report for the first half of 2013. According to the reports, in 2012, 105 assemblies and rallies were stopped by local administrations, and extrajudicial killings in Bangladesh continue from 2011, including torture and killings while in police custody. Between January and June of 2013 alone, the 2013 Report indicates that 184 people were illegally killed by Bangladeshi law enforcement agencies.

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