Time to Sign: Stand with students and activists in Bangladesh

Bangladesh: Release and drop all charges against all those arbitrarily arrested and investigate police abuse

Global civil society alliance CIVICUS is calling for your support and solidarity to demand the release of students and protesters who were arrested and charged over the last month in Bangladesh. On 15th August, Bangladesh was added to the CIVICUS Monitor’s Watch List, which means that there has been an escalation in serious threats to fundamental freedoms in recent weeks and months.

Add your voice to the campaign to demand that the government reverse this trend, release all those arbitrarily arrested and investigate police abuses by sending the letter below to government authorities, and adding your voice on social media using #BangladeshProtests.


3 actions you can take to stand with students and other activists:

1. Sign and send letter to Prime Minister of Bangladesh

To the Prime Minister of Bangladesh,
H.E. Sheikh Hasina Wazed

Bangladesh: Release and drop all charges against all those arbitrarily arrested and investigate police abuse

Dear Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina,

I am writing to express my concerns about serious violations of civic freedoms perpetrated during recent protests in Bangladesh. I urge your government to take immediate steps to address these issues in accordance with your international human rights obligations.

Between 29 July to 15 August 2018 around a hundred individuals, mainly students were charged for unlawful assembly, rioting and other crimes under the Penal Code, Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act and the Special Powers Act. Those arrested were students from private universities or colleges who were involved in either the protests on road safety triggered by the killing of two teenagers by a speeding bus on 29 July 2018 or protests calling for reforms to the civil service quota system. Some were allegedly tortured or ill-treated in custody. Some students have been granted bail on 19 and 20 August. Many students are still in hiding and have not been able to attend classes. I am concerned by reports that they are being deprived from medical care following injuries they sustained while in detention.

I am also concerned about reports that police used excessive force, including firing rubber bullets and tear gas on 4th August 2018 to disperse demonstrations in Dhaka which were triggered by the killing of two teenagers by a speeding bus on 29th July 2018. Some of the student protesters were also allegedly attacked by members of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) and Jubo League, the student and youth wing of the ruling Bangladesh Awami League (BAL) party.

Scores of journalists were attacked while covering the protests, some of whom were later detained briefly by the police. At least four journalists from The Daily Star newspaper were reportedly beaten while at least seven photojournalists were injured in attacks in Jhigatala and Science Lab areas of the city on 5 August 2018. While some attackers wore helmets, the journalists identified some of their attackers as BCL members.

I am also concerned about the arbitrary arrest of Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam who was taken from his home, just hours after he made comments on Al-Jazeera about protests in the city. He was subsequently charged under section 57 of Bangladesh’s Information Communications Technology Act a provision that has been frequently used to bring charges against critics, activists and other dissenting voices in Bangladesh. He has also alleged that he was tortured while in custody. He was denied bail three times in the lower court.

In the last few months, human rights organisations have also documented attacks by the BCL against students protesting the civil service quota system, which reserves 30 percent of government jobs for children of freedom fighters from Bangladesh’s Liberation War in 1971. Academics and journalists supporting them have also been targeted.

Therefore, I urge your government to take the following steps as a matter of priority:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release all protesters and activists who have been arbitrarily detained for exercising their human rights, in particular photographer Shahidul Alam, and drop all charges against them;
  • Carry out prompt, impartial, independent and efficient investigations into all complaints and reports of excessive use of force by the police, as well as attacks by non-state actors, against protesters and journalists, bring those responsible to justice and provide reparations to the victims;
  • Review and amend all laws that restrict freedom of expression, such as section 57 of the 2006 Information and Communication Technology Act;
  • Send a clear message to members of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) and other non-state actors that violence by them will not be tolerated;
  • Create a safe and enabling environment for activists, civil society and citizens to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly without intimidation, harassment, arrest or prosecution.

I express my sincere hope that you will consider and implement these recommendations. 

Sincerely, 

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You can also copy and paste the above letter and send directly to the below government officials, or write your own letter with demands and recommendations to: 

Prime Minister's Office
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Salutation: Honourable Prime Minister

Minister of Home Affairs 
Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal 
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Salutation: Honourable Home Minister

Inspector General of Police
Mohammad Javed Patwary
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Salutation: Dear Inspector General

And copies to: Political Affairs Advisor to Bangladesh
Prime Minister H.T. Imam
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


2. Share and show solidarity on social media

 

Stand in solidarity with Bangladeshi protesters and journalists by sharing this infographic on social media using #BangladeshProtests and tagging the following diplomatic and government representatives. 


3. Share campaign with your network


Updates:

Updates about the campaign to be made available here


For more information, contact:

Clementine de Montjoye – clementine.demontjoye[at]civicus.org 
Josef Benedict – josef.benedict[at]civicus.org