Saudi Gazette – ‘Executions preordained in Bangladesh war crimes trial’

23 Oct

‘Executions preordained in Bangladesh war crimes trial’

JEDDAH — Eminent British lawyer Toby Cadman, who is representing five Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami leaders accused of committing international crimes during the country’s 1971 liberation war, fears that many of the accused will be convicted by the symbolic date of Dec. 16 this year and will be executed by March 25, 2013.

This is the reason the flawed International Crimes Tribunal is rushing through the trial process by restricting the number of defense witnesses to only 12 in the case of one of the high-profile accused, said Cadman, who was recently in Jeddah for — what he described as — pressing upon individuals who have influence to take the lead in raising the issue with the Bangladesh government.

“My hope is that countries of influence, countries that have an interest in Bangladesh and countries in which Bangladesh has an interest will address the situation,” said Cadman in an exclusive interview with Saudi Gazette here last week.

“The defense is required to submit a list of witnesses. This in itself is a fundamental flaw. There is nothing wrong in giving an estimate for time management, but disclosing the names of defense witnesses to the prosecution will enable them to change the case,” said Cadman, who is an international criminal law specialist in the areas of war crimes, extradition and human rights.

He said that 12 is a very arbitrary number.

“Looking at the way they (the judges of the Tribunal) are now scheduling some of the cases, it is evident that the Tribunal is prioritizing time,” said the lawyer who had been senior legal counsel to the chief prosecutor of the Bosnian war crimes chamber.

“If you listen to the statements made by members of the prosecution team, it is evident that the government has the clear intention to convict and ultimately execute at least three — Prof. Ghulam Azam, Maulana Delwar Hossain Sayeedi and Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury — on or by Dec. 16 of this year,” he said.

The date is significant in Bangladesh’s history as on that day 41 years ago the former East Pakistan received its independence.

Cadman, who was refused entry into Bangladesh last year, believes that the government of Sheikh Hasina will do everything to execute these people because they are afraid that if they give them long-term prison sentences and if the governing party then loses the next election, then there is a risk that these people will be released by the new government.

There is also the notion that in order to garner sufficient mass support, they need to fulfill their election pledge and execute these people.

Cadman said that in breach of all legal norms many members of the government and prosecution team have stated in public when the trial is going to finish, how it is going to finish, and which individuals are going to be executed.

“This is a pre-ordained end to the trial process which is full of flaws,” said Cadman.

He said that if Bangladesh presses ahead and carries out the executions, the consequences will be grave: the country will be diplomatically isolated.

“There is a UN Human Rights Council session in March and Bangladesh has its periodic review in June by the UN, which has said that the trial process is arbitrary.”

The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), which was set up in 2010 to try suspects for war crimes committed during the Bangladesh Liberation War, has faced intense criticism from the UN, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the International Bar Association among others for violating international legal standards.

This is neither an international tribunal nor a domestic tribunal. This is something ambiguous, says Cadman, adding that an international tribunal should have international judges, international prosecutors and should be conducted under international law. This is not a domestic tribunal either, because it excludes domestic rules of procedure and evidence applied in all criminal cases in Bangladesh under the Criminal Evidence Act and the Criminal Procedure Act.

Those charged with crimes under the jurisdiction of the Tribunal are denied the fundamental freedoms and rights normally enjoyed by Bangladesh citizens under the country’s Constitution. An accused person enjoys the full protection of constitutional rights including the provision for their enforcement under Article 44. But the first constitutional amendment (the recent insertion of Article 47A) prevents any person accused of crimes committed during the war of liberation from going to the Supreme Court.

“Why is the Bangladesh government so afraid of an international inquiry into the cases,” asks Cadman, adding, “If the evidence is so compelling then what does the government have to fear?”

“If three million people were killed then it is on a level with Cambodia. There is an international tribunal in Cambodia. The cases should not be dealt with by local judiciary,” said the international lawyer who has — in his words — forced the international community to wake up by speaking about the witch hunt being carried out by the present Bangladesh government against the Jamaat leaders.

“I am not going to stop until I have exhausted all avenues of appeal,” says an emphatic Cadman.

Watch on Bangladesh War Crimes Tribunal

Follow: @WarCrimesBD


One Response to “Saudi Gazette – ‘Executions preordained in Bangladesh war crimes trial’”

  1. K.M.Hasan November 18, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

    Will Bangladesh War Crimes Tribunal continue if the present government change?

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