Int’l HR groups want charges against Odhikar men dropped

UNB, Dhaka :
Three international rights groups have urged Bangladesh authorities to immediately drop criminal charges against two senior members of the leading human rights organisation Odhikar and end the surveillance and harassment of its workers both in Dhaka and around the country.
The rights watchdog bodies – Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Commission of Jurists – made the call in a joint statement issued from New York on January 15.
“Bangladeshi authorities should immediately drop criminal charges against two senior members of the leading human rights
organisation Odhikar, and end the surveillance and harassment of its workers both in Dhaka and around the country,” the statement said.
Odhikar published a report on security forces abuses in June 2013. The international community should speak up and press the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to end its harassment and intimidation of Odhikar.
“With the politically motivated witch-hunt of Odhikar, Bangladeshi authorities are essentially shooting the messenger and saying that its security forces are above the law,” said Polly Truscott, South Asia director at Amnesty International.
He went on: “When a credible human rights organisation like Odhikar reports on alleged human rights violations, Bangladeshi authorities should listen instead of trying to silence an important voice. The government should ensure an impartial investigation, allowing for all sides to share information, and the effective protection of witnesses.”
Human Rights Watch’s own investigations into the demonstration on May 5-6, 2013, by the Islamist Hefazat-e-Islami movement found at least 50 dead and more than 2,000 injured. Security forces confronted tens of thousands of protesters. While some police efforts at dispersing crowds appeared to adhere to international standards, in other cases the police use of force was unlawful.
Since it published its report, Odhikar has reported regular visits to their Dhaka offices by security forces, white vans stationed outside the gates, and increased surveillance of staff throughout the country. The security forces raided Odhikar’s offices on August 11, 2013, taking away computers containing potentially sensitive material such as the identities of witnesses.

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