Human Rights Forum Bangladesh (HRFB), a platform of 20 human rights and development organizations, demanded an independent investigation into the attacks on student demonstrations demanding safe roads. They also demanded the release of renowned photographer Shahidul Alam immediately, lifting the case filed against him and other students detained under ICT Act. The demands were placed in a press conference held on 09 August 2018 at National Press Club.
Executive Director of Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) and Convener of the Forum, Sheepa Hafiza chaired the press conference. Human Rights Activist and former adviser to the caretaker government Sultana Kamal, Executive Director of Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) and also member of HRFB, Shaheen Anam, Chief Executive of Nagorik Uddyog and Steering Committee of the Forum, Zakir Hossain, Executive Director of Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) and member of HRFB, Selina Ahmed, Regional Director of Article 19, Tahmina Rahman, Executive Director of Women with Disabilities Development Foundation (WDDF) Ashrafun Nahar Misti spoke at the conference.
The speakers alleged that the government is trying to create a culture of fear so that no one can raise their voice against the injustices and irregularities. The speakers also expressed that the government is making a monster within the law enforcement agencies by handing them the power of arresting and beating any one on their own will. The Government should not forget that this agency may also affect them when they get down from power.
Coordinator of the Forum, Tamanna Hoq Riti read out the press statement and placed the five-point demand on behalf of the Forum members. In the press statement, the Forum strongly condemned the attack on the students, journalists, and arrest and alleged torture of renowned photographer Shahidul Alam. HRFB said that the way Shahidul Alam was picked up from his home does not go with the Constitution, High Court’s direction on arrest and custodial torture; additionally, it is not in line with the government’s obligation under international human rights standards. HRFB also asked the government to explain why they did not take any action to protect the students, after speculating that various anti-government forces might try to create anarchy within the movement. The Forum also raised concerns in their written statement regarding the ability and ease with which helmet-wearing persons were able to attack students and journalists in front of law enforcement agencies, and harass female students and journalists
The five-point demands to the government were-
- Form an impartial probe committee to investigate the recent attacks on students and journalists, and take actions against culprits irrespective of their political allegiance;
- Release of renowned photographer Shahidul Alam and lifting of the case filed against him;
- Release of the students held under ICT Act for allegedly spreading rumors, considering their age and the validity of the movement;
- Ensure that educational institutions or law enforcers does not harass the innocent students who were involved in the recent movement for safe roads;
- Implement the nine-point demand placed by the student protesters in consultation with relevant stakeholders and take both short and long-term measures to ensure that irregularities in the transport sector are resolved.