Bangladesh: call for the release of two human rights defenders unjustly detained

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72 human rights organisations stand in solidarity with Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan, two prominent Bangladeshi human rights activists from the Odhikar group, after they were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment as retaliation for their human rights work.  

On 14 September 2023, Adilur Rahman Khan, Secretary of Odhikar, as well as a member of the OMCT General Assembly and FIDH Secretary General, and ASM Nasiruddin Elan, Director of Odhikar, were sentenced to two years in prison and a fine, following ten years of relentless judicial harassment. The two men were remanded at Dhaka Central Jail. Khan and Elan’s lawyers plan to appeal the decision once the court has issued its written judgment, which could take months. 

The case was launched after Odhikar, a member of the OMCT SOS-Torture Network and of the FIDH, published an investigative report documenting extrajudicial killings by the State in response to a protest in May 2013. In 2013, Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan were arbitrarily detained for 62 and 25 days respectively before being released on bail. Since then, they have been subjected to continuous judicial harassment, with Bangladeshi courts repeatedly dismissing their requests without serious legal grounds, prosecuting witnesses without the consent of the defendants’ lawyer or allowing them enough time to prepare for cross-examination, in clear violation of the internationally recognised right to a fair trial.  

The Bangladeshi authorities accelerated hearings in their case following the adoption of US sanctions against the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), a notoriously abusive paramilitary organisation, and its leaders in December 2021, as they blamed human rights groups such as Odhikar for this outcome. Over the years, Khan and Elan, as well as Odhikar, have been subjected to smear campaigns, criticised, and demonised by the government for their human rights work. Odhikar’s registration was finally denied for renewal in June 2022 after being pending for eight years. 

In Bangladesh, human rights violations committed by the security forces, including enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and torture, remain rampant throughout the country, with absolute impunity. Instead of prosecuting and punishing those who document and expose human rights violations, the government should investigate and hold to account the perpetrators of these violations. 

The harassment of Odhikar has been widely condemned by the United Nations Special Procedures, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Secretary-General in its latest report on reprisals, and the European Parliament. 

We call on the authorities of Bangladesh to immediately and unconditionally release Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan, to overturn their convictions and to put an end to the judicial harassment to which they are subjected. 

We also call on the international community to take a firm stand in support of human rights defenders in Bangladesh and to demand the release of all those behind bars as retaliation for their legitimate and unfailing work. 

We stand in solidarity with Adilur and Elan. 

Inspired by their courage, commitment, and resilience, we will continue to fight until they are freed and can continue their vital human rights work without fear of threat. 


ACAT Belgium – Belgium 

ACAT España/Catalunya- Acción de los Cristianos para la Abolición de la Tortura – Spain 

ACAT Germany (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture) – Germany 

Advocacy Forum – Nepal 

Al-Haq – Palestine 

Alliance pour l’Universalité des Droits Fondamentaux (AUDF) – Democratic Republic of Congo 

ALTSEAN-Burma – Myanmar 

Asia Alliance Against Torture (A3T) – Indonesia 

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) – Thailand 

Association Nigérienne pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (ANDDH) – Niger 

Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) – India 

Center for Prisoners’ Rights Japan (CPR) – Japan 

Centre d’Action Sociale, de Réhabilitation et de Réadaptation pour les Victimes de la Torture et de la Guerre – SOHRAM – CASRA – Türkiye 

Centre de Documentation et de Formation sur les Droits de l’Homme (CDFDH) – Togo 

Centro de Investigación y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CIPRODEH) – Honduras 

Changement Social Bénin – Benin 

Coalition Tunisienne Contre la Peine de Mort – Tunisia 

Colectivo de Abogados y Abogadas José Alvear Restrepo CAJAR – Colombia 

Collectif des Associations Contre l’Impunité au Togo (CACIT) – Togo 

Comisión Ecuménica de Derechox Humanos (CEDHU) – Ecuador 

Comité Vietnam pour la défense des droits de l’Homme (VCHR) – Vietnam 

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) – India 

Defender Center for Human Rights – Libya 

DITSHWANELO – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights – Botswana 

Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) – Egypt 

Ethiopian Human Rights Defenders Center (EHRDC) – Ethiopia 

Federal Association of Vietnamese Refugees in the Federal Republic of Germany – Germany 

Fundación Regional de Asesoría en Derechos Humanos (INREDH) – Ecuador 

Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) – Greece 

Human Rights Association (IHD) – Türkiye 

Human Rights Centre ZMINA – Ukraine 

Human Rights Defenders Alert ~ India (HRDA) – India 

Human Rights Movement ”Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan” – Kyrgyzstan 

Humanist Union of Greece – Greece 

Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD) – Azerbaijan 

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) – France 

Justiça Global – Brazil 

JusticeMakers Bangladesh in France (JMBF) – France 

KARAPATAN – Philippines 

Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law (KIBHR) – Kazakhstan 

Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) – Ukraine 

League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI) – Iran 

Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) – Lebanon 

Liga Mexicana por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos A.C (Limeddh) – Mexico 

Ligue Algérienne de Défense des Droits de l’Homme – Algeria 

Ligue Tunisienne des Droits de l’Homme (LTDH) – Tunisia 

Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) – Maldives 

Manushya Foundation – Thailand & Laos 

Martin Ennals Foundation – Switzerland 

Minority Rights Group – Greece 

Mouvement Lao pour les Droits de l’Homme (MLDH) – Laos 

Musawi – Pakistan 

Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) – Norway 

Observatoire des Droits de l’Homme au Rwanda (ODHR) – France 

Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones (OVP) – Venezuela 

OPEN ASIA|Armanshahr Foundation – Afghanistan 

Organisation Contre la Torture en Tunisie – Tunisia 

Palestinian Human Rights Organisation (PHRO) – Lebanon 

People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) – Republic of Korea 

People’s Watch – India 

Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) – Philippines 

Programa Venezolano de Educación Acción en Derechos Humanos (Provea) – Venezuela 

Promo LEX Association – Republic of Moldova 

Sectoral Transparency Alliance on Natural Resource Governance in Cebu, Inc. (STANCe) – Philippines 

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) – Malaysia 

Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression – Syria 

Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) – Philippines 

The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) – Indonesia 

Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG) – South Korea 

Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos – Guatemala (UDEFEGUA) – Guatemala 

Union Arabe-Aramiens en Haute Mésopotamie – Türkiye 

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) – Switzerland