Bangladesh: judicial harassment of Rahman Khan & Mr. Nasiruddin Elan (joint communication)

The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other UN experts to the Government of Bangladesh on 7 December 2021. The communication remained confidential for 60 days before being made public, during which time the Government was expected to respond. The Government did not respond during this period, and any reply, if sent, will be available on the UN communications database.

This is a shorter version of the original communication.

Read the full communication


Topic: ongoing judicial harassment against Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan and Mr. Nasiruddin Elan, respectively Secretary and Director of the human rights non-governmental organisation Odhikar.

Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan is also a member of the World Organization against Torture’s (OMCT) General Assembly, and Secretary-General of the International Federation for Human  Rights ( FIDH). Odhikar was founded in 1995 and advocates for civil and political rights, and reports on enforced disappearances and is a member of various international networks.

Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan was previously the subject of several communications sent to the government of Bangladesh, including BGD 9/2013, BGD 10/2013, BGD 15/2013 and BGD 2/2014. Mr. Nasiruddin Elan was previously the subject of communications BGD 10/2013, BGD 14/2013 and BGD 15/2013. We regret that apart from two procedural replies received (to BGD 10/2013 and 14/2013), to date no substantive responses have been received to the allegations transmitted by Special Procedures mandate holders.


On 9 November 2021, the Cyber Tribunal of Dhaka resumed its examination of prosecution witnesses in the case brought against Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan, and Mr. Nasiruddin Elan in Case No. 1 of 2013. The case was filed against the Mr. Khan and Mr. Elan in relation to a fact-finding report issued by Odhikar documenting extrajudicial killings by security forces and law enforcement agencies during a protest in May 2013.

Following the publication of Odhikar’s fact-finding report in 2013, Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan and Mr. Nasiruddin Elan were arbitrarily detained for 62 and 25 days respectively, before they were both released on bail on 11 October and 1 December 2013. Odhikar’s registration has not been renewed since 2015 by the NGO Affairs Bureau, its bank accounts have been frozen and it has been forbidden to receive foreign funding.

Rather than dropping the case, the police brought new charges against Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan and Mr. Nasiruddin Elan under Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act, 2006 (amended in 2009), ‘for publishing fake, obscene or defaming information in electronic form’.

On 14 February 2021, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh rejected Odhikar’s appeal to quash the cybercrime case on its legal merits. On 12 September 2021, the Cyber Tribunal of Dhaka resumed the trial in the case against the two defenders and on 5 October 2021, it started to examine prosecution witnesses in the case. If found guilty, Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan and Mr. Nasiruddin Elan could each face up to seven years’ imprisonment.

Reportedly, when Mr. Khan and Mr. Elan’s lawyers sought permission from the court to separately examine the prosecution witness who testified against the two defendants on 5 October 2021, the court merely replied that the witness could be called at a later date to be cross-examined.


In the communication we expressed our concerns at the ongoing judicial harassment of Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan and Mr. Nasiruddin Elan, for their legitimate activities in defence of human rights. We are further concerned that since when the case was transferred to the Cyber Tribunal of Dhaka in January 2017, the latter has failed to uphold fair trial principles. We are also particularly concerned by the lack of transparency regarding the publicity of its decisions. We further express our continued concerns at the attacks, surveillance, smear campaigns and harassment against Odhikar since the publication of the 2013 report, including that Odhikar’s registration has not been renewed by the NGO Affairs Bureau of the Government of Bangladesh and is still pending since 2015.


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