War crimes in Bangladesh: European Union should act decisively in impending miscarriage of justice

12 Nov, 2015 | Press Releases

Brussels – Rome, 12 November 2015
Two leaders of Bangladesh’s opposition parties, namely Mr Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed (from Jamaat-e-Islami party) and Mr Salauddin Quader Chowdhury (from the Bangladesh Nationalist Party), are facing imminent execution on charges of war crimes and genocide committed during the 1971 Independence War. Both were sentenced to death in 2013 by the country’s International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) and both had their appeals rejected by the Supreme Court in June and July this year respectively.
Like previous controversial judgments delivered by the ICT, Mr Mojaheed and Mr Chowdhury’s trial and appeal proceedings were marked by serious flaws in blatant violation of fair trial rights. These include the failure of the ICT judges to apply the proper legal principles, the arbitrary restriction by the ICT judges of the number of defence witnesses and the appearance of bias on the part the ICT against defendants. Almost all of the ICT’s verdicts have been handed down against members of opposition parties, mainly key leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, since its establishment in 2009.

Statement by Alison Smith, Legal Counsel of No Peace Without Justice:

“No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) and the Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty (NRPTT) reiterate their strong concerns about the repeated and continued violations by the Bangladesh judicial authorities of fair trial rights in the enforcement of crimes under international law.

“Through the persistent exclusion of due process guarantees and the application of the death penalty, the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) will not achieve its established aim of delivering justice for victims and addressing the massive atrocities committed during the nine-month conflict in 1971, from which Bangladesh traumatically emerged as an independent State and which haunt the country to this day.

“The latest controversial judgments handed down against Mr Mojaheed and Mr Chowdhury further reinforce the perception that the ICT’s proceedings are a weapon of politically influenced revenge whose real aim is to target a legitimate political opposition. In its current form, the ICT will only contribute to create further violence and division, not the reconciliation that the people of Bangladesh deserve.

“Bangladesh cannot continue to ignore the very legitimate concerns and persistent demands for reform raised both domestically and internationally, including through official rulings by United Nations bodies. “This means first and foremost the immediate and categorical exclusion of the death penalty for individuals accused by ICT and the application in full of all due process guarantees, including protection of defence witnesses, potential witnesses and counsel from harassment and intimidation; full application of the presumption of innocence; and all other due process rights, to the highest international standards.

“We call on the international community to insist that Bangladesh live up to these standards. In particular, we call on the European Union, through its Delegation currently present in Bangladesh, to take concrete steps to ensure that Bangladesh complies with its international human rights and other treaty obligations. Foremost among these is to raise the death sentence against of Mr Mojaheed and Mr Chowdhury, which can be prevented if enough pressure is brought to bear. The European Union must retake its leadership on human rights by doing everything it can to avert the miscarriage of justice these executions would represent”.

For further information, contact Alison Smith on asmith@npwj.org or +32-2-548 39 12 or Nicola Giovannini on ngiovannini@npwj.org or +32-2-548-3915.