London launch: My journey as a witness

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Book Launch: Organised by Candlestar

We invite you to the official UK book launch of ‘My Journey as a Witness’,?a book of images by celebrated photographer?Shahidul Alam.
An extraordinary artist, Shahidul Alam is a photographer, writer, activist, and social entrepreneur who uses his art to chronicle the social and artistic struggles.
Lucid and personal, this much-awaited book includes over 100 photographs tracing Alam?s artistic career, activism, and the founding of photography organisations. From early images shot in England to photographs of the last two decades in his native Bangladesh, this is a journey from photojournalism into social justice. Alam?s superb imagery is matched by his perceptive accounts that are at once deeply intimate and bitingly satirical.
Supported by the Bengal Foundation and published by Skira Editore there will be a short film and brief talks by the author, editor and sponsor accompanied by a book signing.
Date and Venue:
5.30 – 7.30pm Monday 10th October 2011
Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill
Library Room
30 Portman Square,
London, W1H 7BH
Due to limited numbers please RSVP by Thursday 6th October RSVP to?[email protected]

Crimes unseen: Extrajudicial executions in Bangladesh

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” href=”http://www.amnesty.org/sites/impact.amnesty.org/files/bangladesh-fakir-560.jpg”> Bangladeshi journalist Masum Fakir was arrested and tortured by the RAB

Bangladeshi journalist Masum Fakir was arrested and tortured by the RAB?? Masum Fakir

24 August 2011

The Bangladesh authorities must honour their pledge to stop extrajudicial executions by a special police force accused of involvement in hundreds of killings, Amnesty International said today in a new report.
Crimes unseen: Extrajudicial executions in Bangladesh also documents how the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) justify these killings as accidental or as a result of officers acting in self-defence, although in reality many victims are killed following their arrest.
?Hardly a week goes by in Bangladesh without someone being shot by RAB with the authorities saying they were killed or injured in ?crossfire? or a ?gun-fight?. However the authorities choose to describe such incidents, the fact remains that they are suspected unlawful killings,? said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International?s Bangladesh Researcher.
The RAB has been implicated in the killing of at least 700 people since its inception in 2004. Any investigations that have been carried out into those killed have either been handled by RAB or by a government-appointed judicial body but the details of their methodology or findings have remained secret. They have never resulted in judicial prosecution. RAB has consistently denied responsibility for unlawful killings and the authorities have accepted RAB claims.
?It is appalling that virtually all alleged instances of illegal RAB killings have gone unchallenged or unpunished. There can be no justice if the force is the chief investigator of its own wrong-doings. Such investigations cannot be impartial. There is nothing to stop the RAB from destroying the evidence and engineering the outcome,? said Abbas Faiz.
Former detainees also told Amnesty International how they were routinely tortured in custody, suffering beatings, food and sleep deprivation, and electric shocks.
At least 200 alleged RAB killings have occurred since January 2009 when the current Awami League government came to power, despite the Prime Minister?s pledge to end extrajudicial executions and claims by the authorities that no extrajudicial executions were carried out in the country in this period.
In addition, at least 30 people have been killed in other police operations since early 2010, with the police also portraying them as deaths in ?shoot-outs? or ?gun-fights?.
?By failing to take proper judicial action against RAB, successive Bangladeshi governments have effectively endorsed the force?s claims and conduct and given it carte blanche to act with impunity. All we have seen from the current government are broken promises or worse, outright denial,? said Abbas Faiz.
In many cases the investigations blamed the victims, calling them criminals and portraying their deaths as justified even though available public evidence refuted that.
?The Bangladesh authorities must act now and take concrete steps to protect people from the alleged unlawful killings by their security forces .The government must ensure independent and impartial investigations into all suspected cases of extrajudicial executions and bring those responsible to justice.?
Bangladesh?s police and RAB continue to receive a wide range of military and police equipment from overseas, including from Austria, Belgium, China, Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Turkey and USA. In addition, diplomatic cables from the US Embassy in Dhaka, obtained and released by Wikileaks in December 2010 alleged that UK police had been training RAB officers.
Amnesty International calls upon these countries to refrain from supplying arms to Bangladesh that will be used by RAB and other security forces to commit extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations. Any country that knowingly sends arms or other supplies to equip a force which systematically violates human rights may itself bear some responsibility for those violations.
RAB was created in March 2004, to much public acclaim, as the government?s response to a breakdown in law and order, particularly in western and central Bangladesh.
In Rajshahi, Khulna and Dhaka districts, armed criminal groups or powerful mercenary gangs colluded with local politicians to run smuggling rings or extort money from local people. Within months of its creation, RAB?s operations were characterized by a pattern of killings portrayed by the authorities as ?deaths in crossfire?, many of which had the hallmarks of extrajudicial executions.
They usually occurred in deserted locations after a suspect?s arrest. In some cases, there were witnesses to the arrests, but RAB authorities maintained that victims had been killed by ?crossfire?, or in ?shoot-outs? or ?gunfights?.
Bangladesh?s two main political parties ? the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the Awami League ? have shown no commitment to limiting the powers of RAB.
In the first couple of months of coming to office, the Prime Minister spoke of a ?zero tolerance? policy toward extrajudicial executions. Other government authorities repeated her pledge. These hopes were dashed in late 2009 when the authorities, including the Home Minister, began to claim that there were no extrajudicial executions in the country.
Related links:
An exhibition on extra judicial killings by Shahidul Alam
Guardian report on torture by MI5 in collaboration with RAB
Rahnuma Ahmed’s column on the shooting of Limon Hossain by RAB
Amensty’s Abbas Faiz on RAB impunity
Rahnuma Ahmed’s column on militarisation and the women’s movement
Rahnuma Ahmed’s column on the ‘death squad’
Guardian article on ‘death squad’ being trained by UK Government
Guardian claim of Briton being tortured in Bangladesh
Representing “Crossfire”: Politics, Art and Photography

Attack on "Solidarity for Limon" rally


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The regular weekly “Solidarity for Limon” rally had been steadily attracting bigger crowds, despite the monsoon rains. The gathering this Friday the 24th June 2011 was especially large. The street plays were popular and since this was not an event aligned to either of the main political parties, it attracted ordinary people who came to express solidarity, or merely to enjoy the performance.
This week’s performance, a drama called Khekshial (Jackal), performed by Aranyak Natyadal in front of the National Museum at around 4:30pm, was however disrupted when two men burst through the surrounding crowd and began wrecking the props.

Screengrab from video: 9 mins 0 secs?

Screengrab from video: 9 mins 06 secs


Attack visible from 8 mins 58 secs onwards.
The audience, intially slow to react, as they thought it was part of the play, soon went after the men, but they disappeared into the crowd. Later a young man called Al-Amin was caught by the crowd and accused of being one of the attackers. The man was taken away by Shahbag police, who arrived sometime after the event. The police are reported to have released Al-Amin as he was an innocent by-stander.
The organisers have pledged to continue their protests until the government withdraw the false cases against Limon Hossein and provide adequate compensation for the loss of his leg.
`Attack on demo for Limon,’ bdnews24
Fri, Jun 24th, 2011 8:23 pm BdST
http://www.bdnews24.com/details.php?id=199289&cid=2
and, `Goons attack demo for Limon,’ New Age, 25/06/2011 00:42:00
http://newagebd.com/newspaper1/frontpage/23806.html

`State within the state.' Militarisation, and the women's movement


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by rahnuma ahmed

`A state within the state is now ruling the country.‘ Recently uttered by Dr Mizanur Rahman, National Human Rights Commission chair, these words, ominous as they sound, are of immense concern to the nation’s citizenry.
To those who love this country. Who feed off its soil, off the labour of those who plant, grow, nurture, feed us. What sense can one make of his words?
Dr Mizan was speaking at a roundtable on granting constitutional recognition to indigenous people but his words were occasioned by something else. An incident which is proving to be the turning point.
Yes, Limon. People across the nation are outraged. At the shooting. If possible, more so, at the subsequent cover-up attempts by some ministers, by a senior civil-military leadership nexus.
Cover-up? How else but by `criminalising’ the victim? Limon is a `terrorist’, his father’s a `terrorist’. The whole family is nothing but a bunch of terrorists.
Limon’s left leg had to be amputated after the 16-year old Jhalokathi college student, the son of an agricultural day-labourer, was allegedly shot in the leg by RAB’s officers on March 23. RAB claims, the shooting occurred during an `encounter’.
But the real problem, from RAB’s perspective, is that Limon has lived to tell the tale. Unusual, for RAB’s victims generally don’t. Human rights activists allege, since the formation of the elite anti-crime, anti-terror force in 2004, the number of extra-judicial killings has crossed a thousand. Continue reading “`State within the state.' Militarisation, and the women's movement”

Limon Protest 3


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Solidarity Rally for Limon
Friday June 17, 2011
4:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Outside the National Museum (Shahbagh)
It was the third rally in support of Limon Hossein?a 16 year old Jhalokathi college student, the son of an agricultural day-labourer, who was shot by RAB personnel on March 23, 2011, leading to the amputation of his left leg.

The false cases in which Limon has been implicated — possessing illegal arms, obstructing law-enforcement agencies in the pursuance of their duties — still stand; high-up government officials have stated that not only is Limon a `criminal’, his father too, is a `criminal.’
State harassment and persecution of Limon MUST be resisted because it affects all of us, he is our son, he symbolises the nation’s future. He has become a test case, and we must put our foot down and insist, Too many lives have been lost! No More!
We collected signatures in support of our demands (see below) The human chain was joined by passersby. A young theatre group from the nearby town Narayanganj Ei Bangla’y performed their street play, `Shobuj Pori.’ We were encouraged by the fact that every week ever bigger numbers of spectators gathered (see video below).
Our demands are:
? Stop fabricating cases against Limon and his family members.
? Ensure the security of Limon, and his family members
? Punish the perpetrators
Masud Imran (Mannu), asst professor, archaeology, Jahangirnagar university
Naseem Akhter Hussain, professor, govt and politics, Jahangirnagar university
Sayema Khatun, asst professor, anthropology, Jahangirnagar university
Mahmudul Shumon, asst professor, anthropology, Jahangirnagar university
Nasrin Khondkar, asst professor, anthropology, Jahangirnagar university
and, rahnuma ahmed, writer

The gift of a `death squad'


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by rahnuma ahmed

Photograher: Unknown

A `death squad’ was the BNP-Jamaat government’s gift to the nation, a gift that has been nurtured and defended by two successive governments, each claiming to be vastly different to the previous one.
Claiming not only to be better, but morally superior.
The death-knell was struck more than seven years ago, on June 2, 2003, when the cabinet committee on Law and Order decided to form the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). Those present were the committee president Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan, law minister Moudud Ahmed, home minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury, education minister Omar Farooq, and state minister for home affairs Lutfuzzaman Babar.
RAB was formally created eight months later, in March 2004, a composite force comprising elite members from the army, navy, air force, the police, and members of other law enforcement groups. It began full operations in June, the same year.
Remember Fakhruddin Ahmed, the ex-World Bank guy who led the military-installed caretaker government (2007-2008), who claimed to be driven by the objective of “holding a free, fair and credible election” which will truly reflect the “will of the people”? Who saw himself as a “champion or leader” motivated by the aim of “strengthening Bangladesh’s democratic order”? (Time, March 22, 2007).
Well, if you search the records, it turns out that around 315 persons were killed extra-judicially under his, and general Moeen U Ahmed’s, 23-month long emergency rule. Of these, the deaths of more than 250 persons were allegedly crossfire killings (`Bangladesh 2008. Insidious militarisation and illegal emergency,’ Asian Human Rights Commission, December 2008).
Even if, for arguments sake, these persons were hardened criminals, how is the democratic functioning of state institutions strengthened by officials of its elite anti-crime, anti-terror force behaving exactly as criminals do? Continue reading “The gift of a `death squad'”