December 12, 2013
Bangladesh government came under huge international pressure after Abdul Quader Mollah’s execution was announced to be held at 12:01 am on Tuesday.
In a dramatic turn of events the assistant secretary general of Bangladesh Jamaat e Islami managed to acquire a reprieve only hours before he was scheduled to be hanged. Mollah was found guilty in February of war crimes committed during the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.
Earlier Mollah’s execution warrant was controversially issued by the International Crimes Tribunal – 2, Dhaka, even though the death sentenced was delivered by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.
Government officials claimed that Mollah did not have the constitutional right to seek a review of the death sentence and announced that he was going to be hanged a few hours later. The media or the family of Mollah was not notified about the time of hanging until few hours before the scheduled execution.
After the sudden announcement of execution statements started to come from the international community and governments urging the Awami League government to halt the hasty execution.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for a stay of execution just 3 hours before the scheduled execution by an urgent press release. The UN High Commissioner urged the government to not carry out the execution of Molla who was “…convicted of war crimes in a trial that did not meet international standards for imposition of the death penalty”.
The UN Special Rapporteurs on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, and on summary executions, Christof Heyns, expressed concerns that Mollah was not granted a fair trial.
The European Union also expressed concern in statement issued by the EU Heads of Mission in Dhaka. The EU urged the government to halt the execution aligning itself with the UN position: “…the European Union notes the concerns that have been expressed by the United Nations special rapporteurs on independence of judges and lawyers and on summary executions regarding the lack of opportunity for appeal or review of the sentence. The European Union calls for these concerns to be addressed before taking the process further.”
The British Senior Foreign Office Minister Baroness Warsi also expressed similar concerns and urged Bangladesh government to implement a moratorium on the death penalty. Stating the UK’s official stance against the death penalty the Minister added: “We further note that Abdul Qader Mollah was sentenced to death following an appeal permitted under retrospectively applied legislation, and that he was not permitted to review his sentence before the Supreme Court. Bangladesh’s commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) require that all citizens be treated equally before the law.”
Australian government also joined in and issued a statement in which it aligned itself with the UN position and called on Bangladesh to establish a moratorium on the death penalty.
The United States embassy in Dhaka confirmed earlier today that the Secretary of State John Kerry called Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the morning (Bangladesh time) and discussed the current situation including Mollah’s execution. Secretary Kerry reportedly asked the Prime Minister to consider the potential impact of Mollah’s execution at a time when the UN is trying to help break the political stalemate.
Earlier on December 8 The Human Right Watch released statement urging the government to halt Mollah’s execution. The international rights organisation stressed that the Mollah should have a right to appeal his death sentence and stated that Mollah’s case was “…rife with fair trials problems.”
Amidst the immense pressure from the foreign governments and the international bodies the most scorching remarks came from Mollah’s British counsel. In a joint defence statement from Steven Kay QC, John Cammegh and Toby Cadman the defence lawyers commented that “[t]he timing of the planned execution of Abdul Quader Mollah is a disgracefully cynical attempt to bury bad news as the international media concentrates on events in South Africa.”
The lawyers also “…remind[ed] the Bangladeshi Prime Minister that any attempt to cling on to power that results in significant misery for her people would not be ignored.” Warning about possible prosecution they added “The International Criminal Court is already prosecuting one former state leader who attempted such a move in the Ivory Coast.”
Source: BD Chronicle