Our Voices

RFK Human Rights Condemns Harassment of Adilur Rahman Khan

(May 31, 2016 | Washington, D.C.) Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights strongly condemns Bangladesh’s most recent harassment of 2014 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award Laureate Adilur Rahman Khan and his organization Odhikar. The Anti-Corruption Commission of Bangladesh (ACC) is baselessly accusing Odhikar of money laundering. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights believes that Mr. Khan and his organization are being targeted because of his legitimate work to promote and protect human rights in Bangladesh.

On May 22, 2016, Odhikar received a notice from the ACC informing the organization that the ACC is investigating the transfer of 97,000 Euros into Odhikar’s bank account from abroad in 2013. The notice, which had been issued on May 18, demanded that Mr. Khan appear in front of the ACC on May 25, and that failure to do so would result in unspecified legal actions being taken against him.

Mr. Khan prepared a detailed written response, explaining that the amount in question was transferred to Odhikar in 2013 as part of a European Union grant for a project to further education on the United Nations Convention Against Torture. The NGO Affairs Bureau of Bangladesh had initially approved both the project and the transfer of the funds. But as part of a broader and illegitimate crackdown on civil society receiving foreign funds, the NGO Affairs Bureau later withdrew its approval for the project and the funding. In compliance with the orders, Odhikar ceased working on the project and did not withdraw any of the remaining funds allocated for it. In Odhikar’s written response, Mr. Khan states plainly that, “the allegation of money laundering against Odhikar is totally baseless and tantamount to harassment.”

On May 25, Mr. Khan appeared before the ACC as demanded. The investigating officer, Mr. Jalal Uddin Ahammad, questioned Mr. Khan for approximately 25 minutes. Mr. Khan flatly denied the allegations of money laundering against Odhikar, and submitted substantiating documentation accounting for the funds. Mr. Jalal Uddin Ahammad requested additional documentation, including bank statements and audit reports, both of which Odhikar had already submitted to the NGO Affairs Bureau.

“The ACC’s harassment against Odhikar and Mr. Khan is extremely concerning,” said David McKean, Asia Program Officer. “The government has been targeting Odhikar and other human rights organizations for carrying out legitimate human rights activities, instead of using their excellent work to build an inclusive Bangladesh based on the rule of law.”

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights calls on the Government of Bangladesh to immediately withdraw these charges against Odhikar and take the necessary and overdue steps to build a welcoming, enabling environment for human rights organizations in Bangladesh.