Odhikar has a countrywide network of human rights defenders through which it regularly monitors the human rights situation of Bangladesh and reports on human rights violations perpetrated mainly by state actors. It also campaigns against enforced disappearance for positive social changes. As part of this campaign, Odhikar organised a capacity building training programme, conference of human rights defenders, Human Rights Folk School for grassroots level HRDS, protest rallies and human chains; documented cases of enforced disappearance; issued statements and press releases; and submitted cases to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. It also carried out national and international campaigns.

Odhikar releases a human rights situation report every month, based on information gathered by its network of human rights defenders across the country and by monitoring media reports, where incidents of enforced disappearance are highlighted.

Success Achieved

Odhikar gathers information on enforced disappearance and incorporates them in its monthly human rights monitoring reports. Such reports are disseminated to the media and national and international networks. Case studies and updated information on disappearance are incorporated in Odhikar’s monthly human rights reports and also published in the newspapers. This part of the activity raised awareness among the people in order to understand the importance for the accession to the Convention on Enforced Disappearance.

The capacity of human rights defenders who are working on the ground on issues relating to enforced disappearances are enhanced through training and they create awareness at the community level.

The network of local/community human rights defenders are strengthened as a result of regular communication, constant monitoring and reporting on human rights issues.

Challenges Faced

Odhikar faced numerous challenges including intimidation, harassment, threats and regular surveillance by the government and its security forces for reporting on human rights violations particularly enforced disappearances. In August 2013, the Secretary of Odhikar, was picked up late at night with no warrant and spent 62 days in jail. The Director of Odhikar were also charged with him and spent 25 days in jail. They are both free on bail. The charges against them have yet to be proved.

Odhikar is facing closure due to scarcity of resources; since the NGO Affairs Bureau (NGOAB), which is under the Prime Minister’s Office, has barred the release of Odhikar’s project related funds in order to stop human rights activities. The Organisation is still operating with a small of dedicated staff and the volunteer services of grassroots level human rights.

Lessons Learnt

Many people, specially members of victim families, wanted to become involved in human rights activism.

The government persecution of Odhikar taught the organisation to think of alternative ways to carry out its activities.

That maintaining visibility at the international level was vital for ensuring that the human rights campaigns against enforced disappearance continued.

That the government’s outright denial of the existence of enforced disappearances and its bearing of a meeting of the families of the disappeared victims in 2015 reaffirmed Odhikar’s work and encouraged victim-families to speak out.

That as victim-families were harassed by law enforcement agencies, Odhikar’s networks of HRDs and victim-families was a vital lifeline for them.

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