Bangladeshi human rights organisation Odhikar has been facing intimidation and a smear campaign. A series of fabricated media reports criticising the organisation began after the Election Commission of Bangladesh abruptly cancelled the registration of Odhikar as an election observer on 8 November 2018, without any notice.
Odhikar is a human rights organisation that was founded in 1994 with the aim of raising awareness on human rights and monitoring violations throughout Bangladesh. It regularly publishes reports on issues of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and election irregularities. For several years, the NGO and its members have been targeted by the authorities through surveillance, intimidation and legal harassment.
The secretary of Odhikar, Adilur Rahman Khan, was arrested in 2013 and charged with “publishing false images and information” and “disrupting the law and order situation”. Although he was released on bail later, the charges against him are still pending.
According to the circular of the NGO Affairs Bureau (NGOAB), registration of an organisation has to be renewed every five years. In accordance to that, Odhikar applied for the renewal of its registration in September 2014 – six months before its tenure of registration expired. Its application is still pending at the Bureau and the NGOAB has neither renewed nor cancelled Odhikar’s registration. This resulted in the closure of all human rights related projects and the suspension of organisational bank accounts.
Front Line Defenders (FLD) expressing concern over smear campaign against Odhikar, urged Bangladesh authorities to confirm Odhikar’s registration with the NGO Affairs Bureau and reinstate the organisations registration for election observation. It also urged immediately cease any further harassment of the human rights organisation Odhikar, as Front Line Defenders believes that this is solely motivated by their legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights.