Odhikar has “documented enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings and cooperated with UN human rights mechanisms in this context,” the three experts said.
“Such reprisals also have a chilling effect and may deter others from reporting on human rights issues and cooperating with the UN, its representatives, and mechanisms”.
The Special Rapporteurs said that the Bangladeshi NGO Affairs Bureau (NGOAB) has accused Odhikar of publishing “misleading information,” “seriously [tarnishing] the image of the State to the world,” and “[creating] various issues against Bangladesh.”
The experts state these efforts reflect the Government’s continued harassment of human rights defenders and organizations, as well as a violation of the right to freedom as outlined in Article 22 of the ICCPR – the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bangladesh is a signatory.
Ten years after Odhikar published a fact-finding report on extrajudicial killings in the country, the organisation’s Secretary Adilur Rahman Khan and its Director ASM Nasiruddin Elan continue to face judicial harassment for allegedly publishing “fake, distorted, and defamatory” information.
Odhikar is also reportedly facing disinformation campaigns through both print and electronic media.
“The defamation of Bangladesh-based human rights organisations by high-profile public figures is a clear attempt to undermine their credibility, reputation, and human rights work in the country,” the experts said.
Demanding fair treatment
The Rapporteurs called on Bangladesh to ensure respect for due process and the right to a fair trial. Additionally, experts urged officials to cease judicial harassment and disinformation campaigns against Odhikar, including its leaders.
They said they had raised the issue of intimidation with authorities and urged them to ensure human rights defenders can conduct their work in a safe environment, without fear of reprisal.
“Odhikar’s case reflects the ongoing harassment and targeting of human rights defenders and organisations in Bangladesh,” they said.
Special Rapporteurs and other UN Human Rights Council-appointed rights experts, work on a voluntary and unpaid basis, are not UN staff, and work independently from any government or organisation.