Odhikar marks its 17th year of formation on 10 October 2011, which is also the World Day Against the Death Penalty. Campaign against the death penalty is one of the many areas in which Odhikar has dedicated itself for last seventeen years. Created after the fierce movement against military dictatorship, Odhikar as a network of human rights defenders in Bangladesh, has earned its credibility by becoming a part of the peoples’ movement to constitute Bangladesh as a democratic state, ensuring liberty, rights, justice and participatory governance. Odhikar’s core commitments for human rights and rule of law; and against discrimination, exploitation and impunity remain as relevant as they were on the day of its formation. The struggle it started in 1994 continues today, even more intensely and under restrictive conditions.
In Bangladesh, the space for freedom and enjoyment of rights fluctuates and does not stabilize to enable citizens to live in an environment of security, regardless of the type of government in power; elected or unelected.
Over the years, Odhikar has extended its activities through networking in South Asia as well as at the Asian level. Internationally too, Odhikar is involved in a number of campaigns; such as the campaign against the death penalty, against torture, for international justice and the ICC, monitoring elections as a part of its democracy programme, ratification of international human rights instruments, protocols and implementing legislations, the international campaign against crimes against humanity and campaigns for human rights defenders etc.
At home, Odhikar’s main priority areas are the monitoring of human rights and freedoms in Bangladesh; gender rights and violence against women; press and media freedom; violations of human rights in boarder areas with India; anti-terrorism measures; legal discrimination; victims of crime and torture etc. Odhikar also monitors the progress in realizing the commitments of Bangladesh made before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Documenting violations is what Odhikar attaches highest importance to. With increased violations of rights both in numbers and variation, Odhikar now documents on 23 different types of violations including killing, rape and torture by law enforcement agencies; enforced disappearance; deaths in custody; trial and deaths of BDR jawans; death penalty; freedom of expression; the situation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts; rights violations on Indo-Bangladesh border; religious and ethnic minority rights; political violence; acid violence; rape; dowry related violence; sexual harassment; workers rights; arrests and abuse of the Criminal Procedure Code; national security laws; prison situation; and election violence monitoring.
It regularly publishes its monitoring reports on violations of rights in its monthly bulletins and other reports. To address urgent situations, Odhikar issues ‘Urgent Appeals’ either alone or with its international partners.
After 17 years of work to improve human rights, Odhikar has earned some credibility nationally and globally, but the human rights situation still remains critical, which makes Odhikar even more determined to continue its struggle for freedom and rights of the people of Bangladesh. Although its campaigns have achieved successes, at the same time, it has suffered a lot. The organisation operates under constant threat and the non-cooperation of the authorities. For Odhikar, ‘human rights’ is not a luxury job but a struggle that has to be continuously waged until basic rights are secured.
Dr. C. R. Abrar
Adilur Rahman Khan