Cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore was arrested in May 2020 under the Digital Security Act after he posted on Facebook a series of cartoons he entitled “Life in the Time of Corona”, satirizing and criticizing the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This statement was originally published on cartoonistsrights.org on 18 December 2020.
Earlier this week three of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Special Rapporteurs have co-signed a written statement seeking the immediate release of Bangladeshi cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore, jailed in May 2020 and winner of CRNI’s Robert Russell Courage in Cartooning Award. Today we have done likewise together with Cartooning For Peace and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
In their intervention dated December 16th Karima Bennoune (Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights), Irene Khan (Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression) and Tlaleng Mofokeng (Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health) wrote:
“Around the world, COVID-19 outbreaks in prisons increase the danger of harm or death of individuals with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and chronic respiratory conditions. Bangladeshi authorities have released thousands of individuals due to the threat that COVID-19 poses in prisons, and there seems to be no legitimate reason to refuse Mr. Kishore’s request for bail. We urge Bangladesh to release Mr. Kishore on humanitarian grounds to avoid a further deterioration of his health. During the pandemic, it is more vital than ever to respect the rights of artists such as [Mr. Kishore] to express dissenting views. Not only are these rights internationally guaranteed, they play a vital role in promoting critical policy discussions. Silencing their voices harms their human rights – and also puts everyone at greater risk.”
Their public contribution follows that made by Maria Arena, chair of the European Parliament’s subcommitee on human rights, dated October 8th.
In a joint statement with Cartooning For Peace and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) we are today redoubling our demands for the humane and just treatment of Ahmed Kabir Kishore as a matter of utmost urgency, saying in part:
“More than seven months on from Ahmed Kabir Kishore’s arrest by the Rapid Action Battalion – nominally the police division deployed against the worst, most dangerous criminals in Bangladesh – time is up for both them and the government they serve. Beyond initial charges made, no case has been substantiated […] Even allowing for the delays that might have been the consequence of the pandemic, the full case against Kishore should have been articulated by now […] Enough is enough. Ahmed Kabir Kishore should be released immediately and all charges against him dismissed at the first opportunity.“