Toby Cadman – Co-Head of Guernica 37 Chambers
This statement is issued on behalf of Jamaat-e-Islami, the largest Islamist political party in Bangladesh, which continues to fight for the lawful political representation of both its members and those that it represents in Bangladesh.
Jamaat takes this opportunity to voice its abhorrence at the recent conviction and sentencing of Odihakar human rights defenders Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan by the Cyber Tribunal of Dhaka. Allegedly on the basis of their publication of false information, this conviction is in fact the latest in a long line of politically motivated prosecutions being used to silence the work of those reporting on, and peacefully resisting, the increasingly autocratic rule of the Awami League.
Like Jamaat-e-Islami, which continues to be de-registered as a political party as a result of politically motivated processes, Odihakar’s work has been purposefully impeded for nearly a decade, having ultimately had its registration application denied in 2022 on the grounds that it has “seriously tarnished the image of the state to the world.”
It is the work of human rights defenders to represent the truth and stand up for those most vulnerable in society. Odihakar’s work falls squarely within this mandate, and continues to expose the egregious human rights abuses of the Awami League regime. Each and every one of these abuses is serious, but through Odihakar’s work, the world now knows that they go far beyond ballot stuffing and election rigging, and instead encompass some of the most egregious crimes, including torture, enforced disappearance, and extrajudicial killing.
The conviction and sentencing of Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan is just another step in the Awami League’s attempt to restore a veil of secrecy around its growing autocracy, and must not be tolerated. Judicial independence is the lynchpin of any functioning democracy. As the 2024 elections approach we call on the Bangladeshi criminal justice system to stand up for its citizens and immediately review the convictions, demonstrating that there may be a glimmer of hope for Bangladesh’s democracy and political freedom going forward.