Request for action: Urgent Appeal regarding the arrest of human rights defender in Dhaka, Bangladesh – RegAugust 12, 2013
12 August 2013
Ms. Margaret Sekaggya
Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders
c/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – Palais Wilson
United Nations Office at Geneva
CH 1211 Geneva 10 Switzerland
Sub: Request for action: Urgent Appeal regarding the arrest of human rights defender in Dhaka, Bangladesh – Reg
Greetings from SICHREM!
The South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM) requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
SICHREM is now writing to express our grave concern regarding the arbitrary arrest of Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan, Secretary of Odhikar, Executive Committee Member of Forum Asia and a member of OMCT General Assembly, at his Gulshan residence, in Dhaka.
According to the information received, on August 10, 2013, at 10.20 pm, Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan was arrested by eight or nine detectives of the Detective Branch of Police (DB) as he was returning home with his family. The detectives, who brought a white microbus apparently belonging to the United Commercial Bank and a blue and silver coloured mitsubishi pajero, asked Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan to follow them. Reportedly, Mr. Rahman Khan was brought to the headquarters of the police DB in Dhaka.
The Dhaka Metropolitan Police subsequently confirmed the arrest to the media, adding that Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan has been arrested under the Information and Communication Technology Act. The arrest was allegedly made on the basis of a general diary filed by the police with Gulshan Police Station, in relation to news and photos uploaded on Odhikar website about the killing of 61 people during the May 5 police drive against Hifazat-e Islam activists at the Dhaka’s downtown Motijheel area.
Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan is a Human Rights Defender among others and is protected under International law on human rights defenders to which India a signatory since 1998. We feel that it is the bounden duty of the State to see that this harassment is stopped and he be released at the earliest.
We understand that harassment, intimidation, and threats on human rights defenders, and of Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan are acts aimed to target and obstruct the work of his and the organisation.
SICHREM is gravely concerned about the intimidation tactics employed by the state forces, and the alleged afore mentioned facts and recalls that the authorities have to fulfill their obligations under international human rights law to protect the right to life and to protect the rights of a human rights defender to perform his duties without any hindrance. The State authorities must ensure that the forces comply with international human rights standards on law enforcement, in particular those relating to the defenders rights.
SICHREM, deeply concerned by the developments, Accordingly, calls on the competent authorities to ensure that the investigation is carried out promptly, effectively, thoroughly, independently and impartially, the result of which must be made public, in order to bring those responsible for the act, before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal and apply penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions as provided by law.
SICHREM expresses its deepest concern about Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan’s arbitrary arrest, which seems to merely aim at sanctioning his peaceful human rights activities, and calls upon the authorities in Bangladesh to guarantee in all circumstances his physical and psychological integrity as well as to release him immediately and unconditionally.
SICHREM urgently requests you to :
i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan and of all human rights defenders in Bangladesh;
ii. Release Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan who has also been a former Deputy Attorney General of the Country immediately and unconditionally as his detention is arbitrary since it only aims at sanctioning his human rights activities;
iii. Put an end to any kind of harassment – including at the judicial level – against Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan and all human rights defenders in Bangladesh;
iv. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially:
– its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, as well as
– its Article 12.2, which provides that the State shall “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, 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”;
v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bangladesh.
Looking forward to your immediate action in this regard,
Note : Similar Urgent Appeal regarding the arrest and detention of Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan has been sent to the following:-
i) H.E. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister, Dhaka-1215, Bangladesh
ii) H.E. Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir, Minister for Home Affairs, Bangladesh.
iii)H.E. Dr. Dipu Moni, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bangladesh
iv) H.E Shafique Ahmed, Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Bangladesh.
v) Mr. Hasan Mahmud Khandaker, Inspector General of Police, Bangladesh
vi) Dr. Mizanur Rahman, Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission Banglade
vii) H.E. Mr. Abdul Hannan, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to the United Nations in Geneva.
viii) Embassy of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh in Brussels, Belgium.
ix) High Commission of Bangladesh in New Delhi, India.
If safeguarding the rights of people, especially minorities and women, makes for good governance, then the plight of state’s watchdogs paints a sorry picture.
The government bodies set up to look after human rights, and rights of women and minorities are lying headless, and therefore toothless and defanged, for quite some time.
Karnataka State Human Rights Commission (KSHRC), Karnataka State Commission for Women (KSCW) and Karnataka Minorities Development Corporation (KMDC) do not have anybody at the helm. It means these bodies cannot either look into the complaints of rights violation or make recommendations to the government to punish the culprit.
Sorry state of KSHRC
The KSHRC comprises a chairperson and two members.
The body cannot investigate complaints of human rights violation or take any action without the nod of its chairperson. Its previous chairperson, Justice (Retd) SR Nayak, retired on July 25 past year.
One of the two members, RH Raddi, retired two days after Justice Nayak and the other, B Parthasarathy, retired on March 2 past year. The government replaced the two members (appointing Justice Hunagunda and Meera Saxena) only on November 21. The post of the chairperson is still vacant. It has reduced the KSHRC to just a complaint-receiving body.
In 2012, the KSHRC referred 67 cases of human rights violation to the state government. The government, however, decided to act only in 20 cases. As on June 30 this year, the human rights body had a backlog of 14,410 complaints.
Reportedly, one of the two new members of the commission, Saxena, is not well versed in Kannada. R Manohar, director (project), South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (Sichrem), said people have intimated him about Saxena’s language issue. He said the government should appoint only those people to the KSHRC who have thorough knowledge about human rights.
He rued that the commission does not have a chairperson for a year now. He said many cases of human rights violation have taken place in the state in this period. He gave the example of Lakshmi Devi, a housemaid who died recently after setting herself afire, blaming the city police for torturing her to confess to stealing from her employer’s house.
While the human rights commission is lying headless for a year, the women’s commission is without someone at the helm for six months now. Previous chairperson of the KSWC, C Manjula, quit on February 1 this year. The post is lying vacant since then. In this situation, the body can only counsel the victims who approach them.
The secretary of the KSWC, Kavitha S Mannikeri, said she is with the women’s commission on deputation for the past three months. She said that they are referring complaints to the department concerned for action as, without a chairperson, they do not have the mandate to take a decision.
She said that she herself has been juggling the two official roles she has—one at the KSWC and one as the joint director of child welfare department—on an everyday basis.
The KMDC too has gone quiet ever since its previous chairman, Anwar Manippady, stepped down owing to political compulsions. During his tenure, he had exposed people who had encroached wakf properties worth crores of rupees.
Shaik Latheef, KMDC secretary, said that as the organisation is without a chairperson, it cannot take up any survey to tell if the government’s schemes for minorities’ welfare are being implemented. Also, the body cannot make recommendations to the government if it notices some anomaly.
Manippady told dna that the government should appoint a chairperson to the corporation at the earliest. He alleged that some people were working against the KMDC. He said many politicians had encroached wakf properties worth crores of rupees.
Source : DNA, Bangalore – 8th August 2013.
PUDUCHERRY, India—India is taking steps to create a more nurturing criminal justice system to help child victims of abuse testify. Child abuse has often gone unpunished in India, but in the past year the government has introduced tougher penalties and laws that encourage people to report abuse.
While stepping in the right direction, the justice system is still struggling to find a foothold, to really put the principles into action.
“One of the main reasons sexual offenders against children used to escape was that children [who are victims] could not cope with facing the criminal justice system,” said Anant Kumar Asthana, a child rights lawyer practicing in the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court of India.
The recent acquittal of a 45-year-old man accused of raping a 5-year-old girl nine years ago shook Indian civil society. The accused was identified by the child in court, but was acquitted because the child couldn’t answer questions in a cross-examination in the court.
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act 2012 went into effect in November 2012. Asthana listed the two most significant accomplishments of the law, “[Firstly,] It has made not reporting sexual offenses against children a punishable offense, and [secondly,] it has defined several sexual acts as criminal offenses, which were not there in any penal law before.”
While people have started filing POCSO cases around the country, the first convictions under the Act have just started to come out.
Another main feature of the law is the mandated creation of child-friendly courts, processes, and procedures. In these, explained Asthana, an effort is made to understand and address the vulnerabilities of children. According to media reports, police chiefs in several states have started issuing orders that cases registered under POCSO can be tried in children’s court.
While praising the Act, children’s advocates say implementation remains a challenge.
Ranganathan Manohar, a program director for the South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring, said coordination between government departments will be important. He also noted that “Child rights activists, physiologists, and others need to be constantly contacted and consulted.”
Asthana gave an example of where the infrastructure is lacking to meet the requirements of the Act. POCSO requires a female police officer record the statements of a child victim, but with the current number of women on the force, it is difficult to arrange.
“Implementation of the POCSO Act is at a nascent stage in our country,” Asthana said. “Police have responded comparatively better to this Act, and that is why we see so many cases being registered by the Police. But other concerned authorities [such as judiciary officials and officials from various government departments] are still in the process of responding to the requirements of this Act.”
To bring cooperation among all agencies and stakeholders on implementing the Act, a POCSO conference was held in New Dehli on Tuesday by the Indian Ministry for Women and Child Development.
Minister for Women and Child Development Krishna Tirath stressed the need to introduce the Act in the school curriculum. “Children must be educated about its provisions,” she said in a release.
Many children’s advocates focus on police training, since police are the major players in implementing the Act. Manohar said, “Specific training using child rights activists and medical experts needs to be done for the police who will deal with children while recording statements on audio and video.”
He said the Act needs to be further disseminated in various languages to all concerned, especially the judiciary, police, child groups, and parents.
Source – Venus Upadhayaya, Epoch Times, August 3, 2013
SICHREM condemns the move by the Central Government to launch The Central Monitoring System and demands its withdrawal
The South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM) strongly condemns, the New Central Monitoring System (CMS), a see–all surveillance programme launched by the Central Government. It is a blatant attack on the right to life which is enshrined as a fundamental right in the Constitution and right to privacy is an integral part of right to life.
The right to privacy is guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which the United Nations adopted in the year 1948 10 December and to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which India is a state party in the year 1975. Article 17 of the ICCPR provides that, “(1) no one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home, or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation; (2) everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”
The term “correspondence” has been broadly recognized to cover all forms of communication, including via the Internet. The right to private correspondence thus gives rise to a comprehensive obligation on the part of the government to ensure that text messages, emails, and other forms of electronic communication are actually delivered to the desired recipient without arbitrary or unlawful interference or inspection by the government or by third parties.
The proposed manner of “snooping” by the Central Government is a direct attack on the constitutional rights of the citizens. In order to uphold its democratic principles and to prevent the formation of an authoritarian image, India needs to be transparent about who will be authorised to collect data, what data will be collected, how it will be used and such details.
The new proposed CMS system will be a violation of article 19(1) of the constitution which guarantees the freedom of speech and expression. There is also a threat that in the name of “society welfare”, this new system might actually be misused by public authorities.
While SICHREM firmly condemns any sort of violence by non-state actors as well as state actors, but in the name of curbing and preventing attacks and violence there are other measures that the government needs to take and SICHREM acknowledges the constitutional duty and responsibility cast on the Governments to protect the life of all people it equally stresses that whatever be the situation, the state must act within the confines of constitution.
SICHREM asserts that any counter strategies devised by the Government should adhere strictly to the rule of law, constitution and specific standards and obligations of international human rights law.
SICHREM demands from the government that they need to keep all the above constitutional, fundamental human rights and principles of international law in mind while laws are being brought, which if not followed will be a blatant violation of all basic democratic principles.
The CMS is created without the parliament’s approval too, SICHREM demands that the government convene a full public debate about the intended use of the system before proceeding.
SICHREM joins in appeal with all other democratic and rights loving citizens for the immediate withdrawal of The Central Monitoring System.