Govt should immediately release Odhikar chief
The arbitrary arrest of a rights defender, Adilur Rahman Khan, yet again provides a poignant pointer to the incumbent’s increasing predilections for human rights violations. According to a New Age report on Monday, the Detective Branch of police detained him from in front of his residence at Gulshan in the capital on Saturday night under Section 54 of the CrPC. Moreover, he was placed on a five-day police remand on Sunday for interrogation although, as his counsel told the court, there is a High Court directive that prevents police remand for one arrested under Section 54. Adilur is the secretary of a Dhaka based rights organisation, Odhikar, which like other human rights bodies, monitors and reports on the human rights violations by both the public and private perpetrators. In other words, it contributes to the process of making the government bodies accountable in terms of the state’s constitutional obligation to uphold human rights. Understandably, the society at large gets benefitted out of the rights activism of organisations like Odhikar and their functionaries. The ruling Awami League’s leaders and activists, while in the opposition camp during the previous regimes also benefited in many ways from its rights activism. In that sense, Adilur’s arrest is not only a manifestation of the incumbents’ undemocratic attitude, but also a betrayal to a democratically oriented friend.
In line with the key charges brought by the government against Adilur, Odhikar reported at least 61 deaths in the early hours of May 6 when several thousand law enforcing personnel flushed thousands of people tied to Hefajat-e-Islam out of Shapla Chattar at Motijheel in the city. The government claims that the figure is unfounded. What is pathetic about the government claim is that it is out to defame Odhikar and its chief functionary without conducting any investigation into the much talked about violent incident. Notably, the ruling party spokesman rather claimed without any investigation that none has died in the operation – a claim which found only a few takers.
However, Odhikar regularly investigated the incidents of extrajudicial killings perpetrated by different law enforcing agencies, particularly the Rapid Action Battalion. In the process, it helped people raise voice against such unconstitutional means to bust crimes in the past few years. Ironically, however, instead of punishing the perpetrators, the government appears hell-bent on muzzling the voice against such heinous killings that even the key figures of the government have on many occasions pledged in different forums, national and international, to stop ever since they assumed power in 2009.
The government needs to realise that harassing a credible rights defender like Odhikar might cause it to face huge public backlash, national and international, in the days to come. The incumbents would rather be well advised to release Adilur Rahman Khan immediately and initiate a credible investigation into the May 5 mayhem, produce a credible report informing the public about the real number of casualties, if it has anything to contest the figure presented by the Odhikar. Meanwhile, let the human rights watchdogs function without facing harassments.
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