South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) vehemently condemn the action taken by the Government of Bangladesh to ban the photo exhibition of extra judicial killings in Dhaka. This is a violation of a citizen’s right to freedom of expression.
Hours before the exhibition was due to open at a special ceremony in Dhaka, Police closed down the Drik Picture Library on Monday, 22nd March 2010. The exhibition, “Crossfire,” by Shahidul Alam, features photographs based on Drik’s case studies relating to the alleged extra-judicial killings by the Rapid Action Battalion of Bangladesh. The reason for the closure of this exhibition, as stated by the police, was that the exhibition had no official permission to open and that it would “create anarchy”. From this day onwards police officers have been stationed at the gates every day to stop people from entering the exhibition.
Hundreds of people have been killed in Bangladesh since 2004 when the special police force, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), was established. SAHR reiterates that even though the government officials have repeatedly stated their commitment to put an end to extra judicial executions by the security forces and have said that those responsible for such killings will be held to account, no legal action has been taken nor has any investigation been held against perpetrators for such incidents of “crossfire” killings.
SAHR believes that the government should address RAB’s involvement in such incidents instead of trying to silence those who are promoting public debate and raising awareness peacefully about alleged extra judicial executions.
SAHR respectfully urges the government to lift the police ban on this exhibition and protect the people’s right to freedom of expression whilst also implementing its commitment to the rule of law, human rights and fundamental democratic principles.
On behalf of South Asians for Human Rights
Dr Hameeda Hossain