Ban on exhibition on extrajudicial killings lifted in Dhaka
Last Updated: Wednesday, March 31, 2010, 20:04
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 here today.

"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Rahman said the police forces were withdrawn from the venue and the organisers were now free to stage the exhibition styled "crossfire" without any barrier.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 kept secret.

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".


First Published: Wednesday, March 31, 2010, 20:04

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