Fifty-one scholars, writers and activists from home and abroad have expressed deep concern over the use of contempt of court law in curbing freedom of expression.
In a joint statement released globally on Friday, they also expressed concern over the recent conviction and sentencing of journalist David Bergman by the International Crimes Tribunal 2 on charges of contempt of court.
The signatories to the statement are Dr Shahdeen Malik, Khushi Kabir, Rasheda K Choudhury, Dr Ali Riaz, M Hafizuddin Khan, Dr Binayak Sen, Prof Imtiaz Ahmed, Shireen Huq, Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, Ali Ahmed Ziauddin, Dr Badiul Alam Majumder, Syeda Rizwana Hasan, Dr Perween Hasan, Dr CR Abrar, Dr Firdous Azim, Dr Amena Mohsin, Farida Akhter, Mohiuddin Ahmed, Dr Faustina Pereira, Dr Bina D’Costa, Shaheen Akhter, Afsan Chowdhury, Dr Asif Nazrul, Rahnuma Ahmed, Dr Shahidul Alam, Leesa Gazi, Dr Dina M Siddiqi, Anu Muhammad, Lubna Marium, Dr Naila Zaman Khan, Zakir Hossain, Tahmima Anam, Arup Rahee, Muktasree Chakma Sathi, Dr Zarina Nahar Kabir, M Nur Khan Liton, Dr Samia Huq, Dr Shahnaz Huda, Shabnam Nadiya, Mahmud Rahman, Nasrin Siraj Annie, Seuty Sabur, Anusheh Anadil, Sarah Shehabuddin, Ilira Dewan, Tibra Ali, Delwar Hussain, Masud Khan, Rezaur Rahman, Ziaur Rahman and Hana Shams Ahmed.
“We urge and appeal to the authorities concerned to reform the contempt of court law as it is a relic of our colonial past that undermines the very spirit of Bangladesh’s glorious war of national liberation,” the statement said.
They said they find the Tribunal’s decision may have a stifling effect on freedom of expression with ramifications for journalists and other writers and hinder research and debate on the history of our War of Liberation.
“The sentencing of David Bergman is nothing but a continuation of curbing of all forms of freedom of expression and differences of opinion about the International Crimes Tribunal,” said the statement.
It firmly and unequivocally said those responsible for committing genocide and other international crimes during the Liberation War must be prosecuted and punished.
“We also believe the process of accountability should be above reproach, and that this can be best done through ensuring an open and transparent process of justice,” the statement said.
It is in the nature of scholarly practice that all histories, including that of 1971, should be subject to scrutiny, review and continuous verification, it said.
“We’re also particularly concerned about the portrayal by the Tribunal of David Bergman who worked on an award winning film documenting 1971 war crimes which was used as key evidence in the Tribunal’s own proceedings against Chowdhury Mueenuddin; and has written widely in support of the need for accountability and war crimes trials in relation to the Liberation War,” the statement added.