Bangladesh

Law and disorder

May 29, 2017
In any well-functioning democracy, dissent is essential 
 
Have we forgotten the meaning of protest?
In any well-functioning democracy, dissent is essential. When protests erupt regarding decisions taken by the government, law enforcement should exercise restraint.  Protesters, for their part, should make their voices heard as peacefully as possible.
 
Hence, it is disheartening to see that almost 150 protesters at the Supreme Court were charged with attempted murder for hurling brickbats in response to the use of water cannon by the police. We understand that protests can sometimes get out of hand. In the heat of the moment, there may be violence to some extent, especially surrounding an issue as contentious as the removal of the Lady of Justice statue from the Supreme Court premises. But slapping protesters with attempted murder charges for protesting a government decision is a terrible abuse of the law, and an unacceptable violation of citizens’ rights.
 
Protests should be peaceful, yes, but that does not mean that the police can use heavy-handed tactics and then charge protesters who respond with whatever crime they feel will be most damaging. Yesterday’s arrest of 42 students of Jahangirnagar University is yet another example of this sort of flagrant abuse of the law. Both the public and law enforcement must understand that protest is an important part of our democratic history, and that it plays an important role in giving volume to the voice of dissent and in holding those in power accountable.
 
Even though four of the accused Lady Justice protesters have been granted bail, it is imperative that these charges be dropped immediately. It is only through cooperation and understanding that we can protect our democracy.
 
Dhaka Tribune, May 29, 2017

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