September 17, 2013
International Defence Team of Abdul Quader Mollah condemn retrospective sentencing of Jammat-e-Islami member to death by Appellate Division of the Supreme Court
Also call for internationally supervised inquiry into the conduct of the trials; RETROSPECTIVE AMENDMENT makes ‘a mockery of international law’
Accuse the Government of staging a ‘political show trial’ aimed at helping the ruling party secure power in upcoming elections
- Express dismay that law was changed to allow retrospective sentencing after PM Hasina’s intervention in Parliament
- Expose deep flaws at heart of trial, including compromised judges
- Attorney General’s declares that there is no review as the case falls outside the Constitution
- Call for halt of trials and full international inquiry
The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh delivered its verdict today on Abdul Quader Mollah. Mr Mollah was convicted of five counts of Crimes Against Humanity by the International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh and originally sentenced to life imprisonment. Now the Bangladesh Supreme Court has allowed the retrospective application of the death penalty and the Appellant is now prevented from exercising any further appeal. This decision has been reached despite strong criticisms raised by several UN Special Rapporteurs earlier this year and a critical report issued by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention last year describing the process as arbitrary and breach of international law.
In a statement to the media following the appeal judgment, the Bangladesh Attorney General stated that the right to review contained under the Constitution in capital cases would not apply, as the war crimes trial fell outside of the Constitution.
This decision over which the accused now has no further right of appeal or review is in clear breach of international law. It lends further weight to calls for the war crimes trials to be condemned and replaced by a credible, International Criminal Tribunal under the auspices of the United Nations.
Abdul Quader Mollah was convicted following a highly controversial trial in which the Presiding Judge was removed following the resignation of the disgraced Chairman as a consequence of the ‘Skypegate’ scandal. The defence were prevented from calling witnesses and the case was promptly closed by the Tribunal and rushed to judgment. Both the Tribunal and the Supreme Court have failed to apply the law as it stood in 1971 and took judicial notice of contentious facts that were not in evidence. The defence were also prevented on numerous occasions from having privileged communications with the accused. The countless defects in the trial process and the numerous errors in law were so severe that they invalidate the entire judgment and any conviction amount to a miscarriage of justice. It is deeply regrettable that the Supreme Court has failed to remedy these defects on appeal and has applied a law that is unconstitutional and in breach of international law.
The law as it stood at the time of conviction did not permit any prosecution appeal for a higher sentence. Yet the law was subsequently amended for the sole purpose of allowing retrospectively a prosecution appeal seeking the death penalty in this particular case. The amendment was passed following the PM’s remarkable statement in parliament, as a result of mass demonstrations on the streets of Dhaka, that the tribunal judges should listen to ‘the sentiment of the people.’
The defence also sought the recusal of two judges on the appeal. First, Justice Sinha was mentioned in the ‘Skypegate’ recordings as having promised the disgraced Tribunal Chairman a promotion if he convicted three accused before the end of 2012. Second, it was alleged that Justice Shamsuddin Chowdhury was appointed to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court explicitly for the purpose of sitting on these appeals. The application for Justice Chowdhury’s recusal was based on his attendance at a number of Awami League meetings and having demonstrated clear bias. This defence application was not upheld and the appeal proceeded.
Commenting Toby Cadman, Foreign Legal Counsel, said:
‘The trial process has been shown to be nothing short of a political show trial aimed at removing an Islamist Political Party, suppressing the opposition and securing the next election for the present Awami League Government.
‘The language of the trial judgment clearly demonstrates that it had little to do with individual criminal liability and more about demonising a political opponent.’
‘What is clear from a number of damning disclosures by the international community and the media is the overwhelming evidence that reveals serious judicial and prosecutorial misconduct and the collusion of the Government with members of the judiciary and prosecution to bring about a desired result by convicting and executing leading members of Jamaat-e-Islami.
‘It is deeply regrettable that the Supreme Court has failed to remedy the very serious defects in the trial process and has upheld a law that we consider to be in breach of fundamental rights.
‘We have today filed an urgent appeal with the Special Rapporteur on Summary Executions and the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges for urgent intervention.’
Commenting John Cammegh, Foreign Legal Counsel, said:
‘Coupled with the Government’s consistent pressure to ignore due process and deliver speedy convictions and prompt executions, the process has become a mockery of international law and undermines all major international instruments that protect fundamental human rights principles.
‘Turning a blind eye to the injustice that is currently unfolding in Bangladesh is no longer an option. What is required now is unified and effective action to ensure that the trials of the accused before the Tribunal are suspended pending a fully independent, international investigation into the practice of the Tribunal, as well as senior members of the Bangladeshi Government.’
Toby M. Cadman and John Cammegh
Foreign Legal Counsel