September 19, 2013
Citizens International strongly condemns the Appellate Division of the Bangladesh Supreme Court for setting aside the sentence of life imprisonment given by the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) and imposing a death sentence on Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami Assistant Secretary General Abdul Quader Mollah.
It is unprecedented for an appeal court to enhance a life sentence to death sentence. Moreover, the right of the prosecution to appeal against the sentence came into effect, through an amendment to the law, only after judgment was delivered by the ICT. It is trite law, which the Appellate Division ignored for political reasons, that criminal law cannot have retrospective effect.
The death sentence imposed on Mollah is the continued judicial lynching of the top leadership of the Jamaat. Earlier, Jamaat deputy chief Delwar Hossain Sayedee, Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and Assistant Secretary General Muhammad Kamaruzzaman were convicted and sentenced to death by the two international crimes tribunals set up by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League (AL) government. Former Jamaat Ameer 93 year old Ghulam Azam had been sentenced to 90 year imprisonment by the ICT.
Several other top Jamaat leaders have been lined up to go through the judicial charade and to be executed in Bangladesh. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had warned: “…no one will be able to stop the trial of war criminals. They will be executed on this soil” (The Daily Star, 3 March 2013).
The only crime committed by the Jamaat leaders was to oppose, in 1971, the armed movement, supported by India and led by Hasina’s father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, that wanted East Pakistan to break away from Pakistan and declare independence. 42 years after the 1971 civil war, Hasina and secular fundamentalist intellectuals and organisations are using the judiciary to take revenge on their enemies and to eliminate Islamic political parties.
The ICT has been widely criticised by human rights groups, United Nations bodies and renowned legal scholars for failing to adopt international standards to ensure a fair trial and adequate protection of the rights of the accused. The judges appointed to ICT owe their position to the Awami League government headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The cases have been based on fabricated and inherently improbable hearsay evidence. It is incredible that for over 40 years no evidence could be found to prosecute and punish these leaders who have been active in politics and social life in Bangladesh. The ‘evidence’ only begins to emerge after 2008 when the AL won the elections with a thumping majority and agreed to prosecute the Jamaat leaders as ‘war criminals’ to satisfy the demands of the secular fundamentalists and to break up the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-Jamaat alliance.
With the publication in the British weekly The Economist and the Bangladesh daily Amar Desh the Skypeconversations and emails between the ICT-1 Chairman Justice Ziaul Haq and Jamaat-hater Dr Ahmed Ziauddin, it is now public knowledge that there has been collusion among the judges, prosecutors, government ministers and Ziauddin to convict the Jamaat leaders.
Even the Chief Justice Muhammad Muzammel Hosain who chaired the Appellate Division panel hearing the appeal is implicated in this plot to pervert the course of justice. Ziauddin, who lives in Belgium, was directing the trials, preparing judgment and orders, advising the judge and prosecutors on the choice of witnesses and dealing with applications by the defendants.
The death sentences passed on the Jamat leaders, if carried out, would amount to judicial murder. The Haq-Ziauddin communication signals the collapse of the independence and impartiality of the judiciary in Bangladesh. The international community, in particular the United Nations, cannot remain idle in the face of judicial murder taking place in this 21st century when humankind is celebrating the triumph of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
We call on the United Nations Security Council to take effective action to pressure the Awami League government to discontinue the trials and to set up an independent tribunal to investigate the war crimes committed during the 1971 civil war and to prosecute and punish those responsible, regardless of party affiliation, for those crimes. This is the road that must be taken to do justice to the victims of the crimes and their families, and achieve national reconciliation.
S.M. Mohamed Idris