Bangladeshi lawyer Adilur Rahman Khan announced winner of IBA Human Rights Award 2014

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[For immediate release: Friday, 24 October 2014]


Bangladeshi lawyer Adilur Rahman Khan announced winner of IBA Human Rights Award 2014


Adilur Rahman Khan, advocate of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh and founder and Secretary of Bangladeshi human rights organisation Odikhar, was today named winner of the 2014 International Bar Association (IBA) Human Rights Award.

Conferred with the title for his outstanding contribution to human rights, the award was presented to Mr Khan by the President of the IBA, Michael Reynolds, at the Rule of Law Symposium held at the conclusion of the week-long IBA Annual Conference in Tokyo, Japan.
Throughout his legal career, Mr Khan has campaigned tirelessly against torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and violence against women and minority communities. On 10 October 1994, he founded the human rights organisation Odhikar, which has undertaken extensive fact-finding and reporting of human rights violations in Bangladesh. As a result of this work, Mr Khan and his family have endured harassment and persecution by the authorities.

On 10 August 2013, he was arrested and accused of ‘publishing false images and information’ and ‘disrupting the law and order situation’ of Bangladesh. The charges brought against him relate to a fact-finding report, published by Odhikar in June 2013, which detailed extra-judicial killings of 61 individuals by law enforcement personnel during a rally, organised by the Bangladeshi Islamic group Hefazate in May 2013 at Motijheel. The case against Mr Khan is still pending and he, his family and colleagues continue to face persistent surveillance and harassment from the Bangladeshi authorities.

During the presentation of the Award Mr Reynolds spoke of the importance of Mr Khan’s story for lawyers around the world, saying , ‘Let us be reminded that lawyers play a vital role in promoting justice, human rights and upholding the rule of law, both at home and abroad.  May Mr Khan’s courage, determination and resilience be an inspiration to lawyers everywhere.’

Throughout his legal career Mr Khan has provided pro bono legal counsel to political detainees and the families of victims of enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killings. Notably, Mr Khan worked towards the first conviction of police officers in Bangladesh, who were found guilty of torture and causing death in custody in May 2003.

In his acceptance speech, Mr Khan told the 200 delegates gathered at the Symposium, ‘The Rule of Law is under serious threat in my country. Justice for all the ongoing gross human rights violations is inaccessible for victims and their families.  Their right to access to complaint mechanisms is denied, regardless of whatever is written in the laws or the Constitution of the country. Repressive laws are in force and the independence of the judiciary is under attack in a spree of politicisation of institutions of the state. In Bangladesh now, every person is in fear of his or her life. The politicians, lawyers, members of civil society, youth and the people of Bangladesh know well that the prevalent fear embodied by state-orchestrated abuses of fundamental rights, in no way comply with democracy or rule of law […]. [This Award] not only encourages me to continue my work, but is also a catalyst and a boost of energy and renewed strength to the grass roots human rights defenders associated with Odhikar, who are lawyers, journalists, social workers, teachers and students.  They have also been harassed and threatened because of their activism. Within your support and recognition, Odhikar and I find the strength to continue to speak up for human rights in Bangladesh and be the voice of the voiceless, violated and members of the victim families.’

The IBA Human Rights Award, sponsored by LexisNexis, recognises personal endeavour in the field of law which makes an outstanding contribution to the promotion, protection and advancement of human rights and the rule of law. This year’s Award was presented on Friday 24 October 2014 during the IBA’s Rule of Law Symposium held at the conclusion of the 2014 IBA Annual Conference, at the Tokyo International Forum, Tokyo, Japan.

Click here to read Adilur Rahman Khan’s acceptance speech.

Media Statement: International Civil Society Urges Egypt to Release Activists

Media Statement: International Civil Society Urges Egypt to Release Activists

Egypt: International Civil Society Urges Egypt to Release Activists  
15 October 2014. The global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, urges Egypt’s authorities to end the judicial persecution of seven women human rights activists who are on trial for peacefully protesting a controversial assembly law that effectively bans public gatherings without police permission.The current state of civil society in Egypt is dire. The military-backed government has   introduced a number of measures to restrict freedom of speech and the right to assemble. It is also considering a law to restrict the ability of NGOs to receive funds from international sources with a view to stopping their human rights monitoring activities.  Moreover, it has become common practice for judges to imprison non-violent youth campaigners that support basic democratic reforms. “The seven women that are on trial are not dangerous vandals as alleged by security forces, instead they are victims of a heavy-handed judicial system which arbitrarily punishes its most engaged and socially conscious citizens,” said Semanur Karaman, Policy and Research Officer at CIVICUS.  “It is a travesty of justice to see these human rights defenders being subjected to these oppressive sanctions that are in violation of universal principles of international law,” said Karaman.Sanaa Seif, Yara Sallam, Hanan Mustafa Mohamed, Salwa Mihriz, Samar Ibrahim, Nahid Sherif (known as Nahid Bebo) and Fikreya Mohamed (known as Rania El-Sheikh) have been held in the over-crowded Al-Qanatar Prison with fellow political dissidents since their arrest on 21 June 2014 in Heliopolis (a suburb of Cairo). They are due to face trial on 16 October 2014 for their role in a protest against the restrictive public assembly law and false charges of intimidating security forces and threatening public security.

Over 100 imprisoned political dissidents are participating in a hunger strike to raise public concern over violations of fundamental freedoms and the judicial system’s use of fabricated evidence to prosecute activists.

CIVICUS urges the international community to speak out against the continuous persecution of dissenting voices, government critics and human rights defenders in Egypt. In particular, democratic states must engage Egypt’s regime to release all prisoners of conscience and begin the process of dismantling arbitrary legislation which violates civil society freedoms.


For more information please contact: 

Semanur Karaman Policy and Research Officer, CIVICUS

Zubair Sayed, Head of Communication, CIVICUS
Landline: +27 11 833 5959 ext. 140
Mobile: +27 72 456 3036