We urge foreign actors to refrain from endorsing biased bodies like Odhikar and amplifying radical views”- Renowned human rights, social and cultural activists
In a significant development, a group of prominent human rights, social, and cultural activists from the country have issued a statement on Monday addressing the recent conviction of Adilur Rahman Khan, Secretary of Odhikar, and its Director, ASM Nasiruddin Elan. The statement also delves into the reactions of various global bodies to this contentious issue.
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The statement begins with a tone of deep shock and dismay, highlighting the global support that Adilur Rahman Khan and his associate have garnered following their two-year conviction. Both individuals were found guilty of what the statement refers to as the ‘manufacturing and packaging of an alarming scale of disinformation and outright lies’ through a report. This report was purportedly created to serve the agenda of radical religious forces associated with Hefazat e Islam.
Rights Activists Says
“We urge foreign actors to refrain from endorsing established advocates of activists, emboldening radical forces, and putting minorities at risk by defending biased bodies like Odhikar and amplifying radical views. We request such bodies to verify information from multiple sources instead of relying on biased ones. The recurrence of these actions would only undermine the credibility of these bodies and expose double standards on their part,” said Prominent Rights Activists.
The signatories to the statement are:
Dr Sarwar Ali , Trustee, Liberation War Museum
Khushi Kabir, Rights Activist
Mofidul Hoque, Trustee, Liberation War Museum
Sultana Kamal, lawyer and human rights activist
Rokeya Kabir, Rights Activist
Shahriar Kabir, Historian and War Crimes Researcher
Ramendu Majumdar, Cultural Activist
Nasiruddin Yusuf, Cultural Personality and War Hero
Rubayat Ferdous, Academician and Social Activist
Nirmal Rozario, President of Bangladesh Christian Association
Ven. Bhikkhu Sunandapriya, General Secretary, Buddhist Federation Bangladesh
Dipayan Khisa, Bangladesh Adivasi Forum
Prof Meshbah Kamal, Academic and Historian
Abul Momen, Journalist and Academician
Alo De Rozario, Social Activist
May 5, 2013: What Occurred on That Day?
On May 5, 2013, Hefazat-e-Islam, a group centered around Qaumi madrasas in Bangladesh, initiated a blockade program in Dhaka, presenting 13 demands related to perceived insults against Islam by certain bloggers. The day unfolded with Hefazat-e-Islam’s blockade and occupation of Shapla Chattar, leading to widespread violence. Law enforcement conducted early morning operations to clear the area, which sparked controversy. Negotiations between Hefazat-e-Islam and the police began, eventually granting permission for Hefazat to gather at the square under the condition of offering prayers. Violence continued in other areas of Dhaka. Hefazat-e-Islam activists engaged in vandalism and violence, turning parts of Dhaka into conflict zones. The events were seen in the context of countering the Shahbagh movement demanding maximum sentences for war crimes trials, with Jamaat-e-Islami playing a strategic role. Discrepancies in the reported death toll following the raid fueled political debates, with rumors suggesting a much higher casualty count, while the police reported one injured individual later succumbed to their injuries in the hospital.
Odhikar’s Controversial Report
It is against this backdrop that Odhikar, a platform led by Adilur Rahman Khan and his associate, published a report on May 10, 2013. However, the statement alleges that this report blatantly ignored the actual facts. It controversially portrayed the radical elements as “any other social non-political and cultural organization” that aimed to address socio-economic, cultural, and political matters affecting Islamic values and practices.
One of the most alarming aspects of the report, as per the statement, was its downplaying of the gruesome killing spree carried out by radical forces against bloggers advocating for the end of impunity for war criminals. Instead, the report packaged the demand for “blasphemy charges” against these activists as justified.
Anomalies and Misinformation in the Report
The statement doesn’t stop there. It points out major anomalies in the Odhikar report that have been uncovered through independent media reports and subsequent police investigations. These anomalies include altering the identities of localities, the inclusion of names of individuals declared dead by Odhikar who were later found to be alive, and the repetition of names of deceased individuals. Furthermore, the report added six names to the list of the dead who had actually died in a separate incident, with no detailed identities provided for seven other people. Additionally, the identities of 11 individuals remained untraceable, despite initial media reports and court documents.
It’s worth noting that the government even asked Adilur Rahman and his associates to disclose the names of the 61 activists they claimed had died, but they failed to provide justification for their claims.
Adilur Rahman’s Controversial Past
The statement also brings to light Adilur Rahman Khan’s tenure as Deputy Attorney General during the last rule of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami. This period witnessed the largest pogrom against minorities, including the burning of places of worship, looting of valuables from houses, burning people alive, and rape. These atrocities resulted in the forced migration of a significant number of minority communities. Independent rights bodies identified at least 28,000 cases of such widespread attacks on communities across the country. In 2002, when rights activists appeared before the High Court Division of the Bangladesh Supreme Court to seek justice for the perpetrators, Adilur Rahman, then Deputy Attorney General, opposed the move.
The Global Reaction
The statement expressed its deep concern over the outpouring of support for Adilur Rahman Khan and his associate from various global bodies, including a resolution by the European Parliament. It emphasizes that these reactions come after ten years of legal battles during which Adilur had the opportunity to employ the best lawyers of his choice.
The activists request that these international bodies consider the broader context of human rights on the ground rather than relying on what they refer to as “motivated assessments grounded on biased views” peddled by defenders of radical groups like Adilur Rahman Khan.
Selective Outrage and Smear Campaigns
The statement also raises questions about the international response, pointing out that these bodies did not raise their voices with equal fervor when ultra-radical groups, supported by Adilur in the Odhikar report as typical social organizations, launched attacks on war crimes trials, resulting in minorities being targeted in at least 32 districts between 2013 and 2015.
Additionally, it highlights a barrage of smear campaigns targeting overseas audiences, orchestrated in line with radical outfits. These campaigns have disseminated false statistics against minorities through separate letters issued by U.S. congressmen and EU parliamentarians, reportedly crafted by lobbyists and defenders of radical groups like Mr. Adilur. These actions have already sparked condemnation from rights activists and minorities alike.