Campaign against enforced disappearance through documentation, research, advocacy and capacity enhancement of local human rights defenders
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 program, conference of human rights defenders, Human Rights Folk School for grassroots level HRD's, 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.
To create awareness on human rights violations;
To empower human rights defenders with the tools and techniques required to work against enforced disappearance and enhance documentation and fact finding skills on cases of enforced disappearances;
To strengthen the network between local human rights defenders and families of the disappeared;
To engage with the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and CSO's on the issue;
To develop a broader constituency in support of accession to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance; by coordinating with relevant stakeholders;
To generate policies from the State for prevention of enforced disappearances and support to victims.
HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE 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 trainings 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.
Odhikar is one of the few organisations in Asia that produces human rights situation monitoring reports every month, focusing on this issue of enforced disappearance. The report is disseminated to different stakeholders, including national and international networks, development partners, donors and media. Due to its constant campaign against the commission of enforced disappearances in Bangladesh the issue has been widely discussed at the UN and covered by the national and international media.
Networks of local/community human rights defenders and the families of the disappeared victims have been established and they are able to work together on human rights issues a result of this campaign.
Cases on enforced disappearance were systematically documented and updated in the Regional Database of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) through OpenEvsys. Case studies and updated information on enforced disappearance were incorporated in Odhikar’s human rights reports; published in the newspapers.
Victim-families formed a network alongside the network of HRD's, where they can unite to strengthen their demands and make the authority accountable.
The issue has been well recognised by the international community. Such campaign activities raised awareness among the people and emphasised the importance for the ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
Through this campaign Odhikar was able to engage many international organisations/networks, including the UN Human Rights Council. The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances issued letters to the Bangladeshi authorities.
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.
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.