Nobel laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Tawakkol Karman, Máiread Maguire, Betty Williams, Oscar Arias, Sir Richard J Roberts, José Ramos-Horta, Jody Williams and Shirin Ebadi, actor-activist Shabana Azmi, business leader and philanthropist Sir Richard Branson. former Prime Minister of Norway Gro Harlem Brundtland, film director and SDG advocate Richard Curtis, author and SDG advocate Arianna Huffington, entrepreneur and philanthropist Mo Ibrahim, Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, entrepreneur and internet Activist Jerome Jarre, global social activist David Jones, and human rights defenders Kerry Kennedy and Marina Mahathir have signed a statement calling for the release of Dr Shahidul Alam and students in Bangladesh.
Text of the statement, issued by Robert F Kennedy Human Rights:
Two weeks ago in Bangladesh, high school students came out in the streets to register their spontaneous protest about the death of two school-going students caused by speeding buses. They demanded their right to road safety, rule of law and justice.
Credible reports in the global print and electronic media reported that these young protesters as well as journalists and photographers covering these protests, were attacked in the presence of the police, by members of the student and youth wings of the ruling party. It is also reported that when the university students came out after a few days to express their support to the demands of high school students, they were arrested connecting them with various cases which might involve prison sentences and subjected them to police remand (i.e. interrogation in police custody, without presence of or access to a lawyer) which is associated with torture and indignities.
In the late evening of Sunday 5 August 2018, Dr Shahidul Alam, an internationally decorated photographer who is the spirit behind the development of journalistic photography movement in Bangladesh, an academic and human rights activist, was unlawfully abducted from his home, by law enforcement personnel, without an arrest warrant. Last week, he was produced before the Dhaka Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court, where the Detective Branch of Police submitted a prayer for ten days’ remand (i.e. interrogation in police custody, without presence of or access to a lawyer).
The Chief Metropolitan Magistrate granted seven days’ remand in a case filed against him under Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act 2006, which is widely accepted as a draconian law and one that even the Government admits requires reform. As he was being carried into the court room, according to press reports he said to journalists present, “I was hit. They washed my blood-stained clothes and then made me wear them again. I was not given access to any lawyer during detention.”
His alleged crime was taking photographs of the brutal attacks on peacefully protesting students and exercising his freedom of opinion in an interview to an international television channel. Dr Shahidul Alam has been sent to prison on 12 August 2018, on the order issued by Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate on the 7th day of his detention, abruptly and without presence of his lawyer.
It has been further reported widely in the media that numerous innocent students are being subjected to torture in police custody while on remand as well as various forms of harassment and intimidation whereas those allegedly responsible for imposing violence upon a peaceful movement of the young students are enjoying impunity.
We the undersigned raise our joint voice against arbitrary police remand under the draconian ICT Act against Dr Shahidul Alam. We urge that the Government investigate allegations of unlawful arrest immediately and unconditionally release Dr Shahidul Alam.
We also urge that the government immediately release all students who have been arrested after the protest and take every step to ensure human rights of all citizens, including freedom of speech, freedom of media and freedom of association for all.