Dhaka: A controversial photo exhibition on
extrajudicial killings was allowed to go ahead here on Wednesday with
the authorities lifting a ban on it, amid protests by rights
groups and a legal notice served by organisers, officials said
"There is no bar on the exhibition anymore," additional
attorney general M K Rahman said as the writ petition came up
for hearing at the High Court challenging the police action
closing the Drik Gallery on March 21 just before the show was
to be kicked off.
Rahman said the police forces were withdrawn from the
venue and the organisers were now free to stage the exhibition
styled "crossfire" without any barrier.
Police last week shut down the Drik Gallery at Dhaka`s
Dhanmondi area as rights activists, cultural figures and
foreign dignitaries from some 20 countries converged to mark
the launching of the show on the extrajudicial killings.
Both the regular police and elite anti-crime Rapid Action
Battalion (RAB) are often blamed for extrajudicial killings or
custodial deaths of alleged gangsters or criminals, routinely
described as "crossfire" or "encounter".
Drik Gallery director Shahidul Alam filed the writ
challenging the closure of the show but withdrew the petition
after the attorneys said the legal move became "infuctuos" or
irrelevant with the withdrawal of the police ban.
However, organisers were required to obtain police
permission for the show for security reasons since a number of
high-profile foreign dignitaries were to join it.
Reporters without Borders, New York based Human Rights
Watch (HRW) and several other rights groups in the past one
week issued statements criticising the ban.
The New Age newspaper called the action "A brazen attack
on freedom of expression".
"We condemn the police action. And we would like the home
minister to explain to citizens how such acts that clearly
militate against the people`s right to know and observe and
interpret conditions can at all take place," the Daily Star in
an editorial commented.
RAB chief Hassan Mahmud Khondakar earlier this month said
some 600 alleged gangsters or criminals were in killed in such
incidents since 2004 and rights groups feared the figure could
be much higher as many of such deaths were never reported or
Khondakar`s statement was also criticised by the media
with the Daily Star commenting that the the modus operandi of
RAB, "particularly when it comes to crossfire, can not be
above question simply because it claims immunity before law".