Bangladesh: Arbitrary detention and torture of photographer Mr. Shahidul Alam

Urgent Appeal

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bangladesh.

New information
BGD 002 / 0818 / OBS 102

Torture /
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment /
Incommunicado detention
August 6, 2018

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the arbitrary detention and torture of Mr. Shahidul Alam, photographer and founder of the Drik photo agencyand ofthe Pathshala South Asian Media Institute. Mr. Shahidul Alam has been documenting the student protests over road safety, which have been ongoing in the country for more than a week and which have been violently repressed by the Government, with more than 100 students injured over the weekend.

According to the information received, on August 5, 2018 at around 10.30 pm, Mr. Shahidul Alam was forcibly taken from his house in Dhanmondi, Dhaka, by a group of men in plain clothes, who identified themselves as officers of the Detective Branch (DB) of the Police. Mr. Shahidul Alam’s house was searched and all the CCTV cameras were destroyed.

His whereabouts have remained unknown until August 6, 2018, when Mr. Shahidul Alam was brought to the Dhaka court by Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Asaduzzaman Noor, where he was interrogated regarding allegations that he gave false information to the media and for so-called “provocative comments”. These accusations are related to an interview that Mr. Shahidul Alam gave to Al Jazeera on the situation in Bangladesh and to his Facebook posts over the ongoing student protests.

Mr. Shahidul Alam was remanded to custody for seven days in a case filed under Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act, which over the past years has been used to arrest and prosecute several journalists who have criticised the Government.[1]

During the hearing, Mr. Shahidul Alam reported he had been tortured in custody, and was not able to walk without support. According to his own words, the police officers made him wash his bloodied clothes before making him wear them again.

The Observatory recalls that these extremely concerning events have taken place in a general context of crackdown against civil society in Bangladesh, with twelve other journalists and hundreds of students having been attacked by pro-government forces in the last three days. Several of them have been arrested under Section 57 of the ICT Act.

The Observatory strongly condemns the arbitrary detention and torture of Mr. Shahidul Alam as they clearly aim at punishing him for his peaceful and legitimate human rights activities.

The Observatory urges the authorities of Bangladesh to immediately release Mr. Shahidul Alam and put an end to all acts of torture, ill-treatment and harassment, including at the judicial level, against him. The Observatory further calls for a thorough, impartial, and transparent investigation into the above-mentioned allegations of torture in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Bangladesh, urging them to:

Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Shahidul Alam as well as of all human rights defenders in Bangladesh;
Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Shahidul Alam, as well as all human rights defenders detained in Bangladesh, as their detention is arbitrary as it is merely aimed at punishing them for their human rights activities;
In the meantime, guarantee her right to due process and fair trial, as protected under international law, including the unhindered access to her lawyer and family;
Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Shahidul Alam, as well as of all human rights defenders in Bangladesh and ensure that they are able to carry out their activities without hindrance;
Carry out a transparent, impartial, immediate and thorough investigation into the above-mentioned allegations of ill-treatment in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law;
Conform in all circumstances to the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular its Articles 1 and 12.2.;
Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights instruments ratified by Bangladesh.


· Ms. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 8113243, Email:
· Professor Dr. Gowher Rizvi, Adviser to the Prime Minister (International Affairs), Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 9111312 Email:
· Mr. Asaduzzaman Khan, State Minister for Home Affairs of Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 9515541. Email:
· Mr. Anisul Huq, Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs of Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 7168557. Email:
· Md. Shahriar Alam, State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 9562188. Email:
· Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Bangladesh, Fax: +880 2 956 5058 /+880 2 7161344, E-mail: or
· Mr. Mahbubey Alam, Attorney General for Bangladesh, Email:
· H.E. Mr. Abdul Hannan, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the People’sRepublic of Bangladesh to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 738 46 16, E-mail:
· Embassy of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 646 59 98; Email:

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Bangladesh in your respective country as well as to the EU diplomatic missions or embassies in Bangladesh.

Geneva-Paris, August 6, 2018

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

Tel and fax OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

[1] Under Section 57 of the ICT Act “(1) If any person deliberately publishes or transmits or causes to be published or transmitted in the website or in electronic form any material which is fake and obscene or its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it, or causes to deteriorate or creates possibility to deteriorate law and order, prejudice the image of the State or person or causes to hurt or may hurt religious belief or instigate against any person or organization, then this activity of his will be regarded as an offence. (2) Whoever commits offence under sub-section (1) of this section he shall be punishable for a term of minimum of seven years’ imprisonment and a maximum of 14 years or a fine of Taka 10 million or both.”

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