The Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) expresses its deep concern that the Supreme Court of Bangladesh has dismissed the ‘Review Petition’ of Mohammad Kamaruzzaman and thus removed the final bar to execution.
The CLA supports steps taken to seek justice and address impunity. Further, it supports the principle of the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), and its stated aim of prosecuting those who are alleged to be responsible for atrocities committed during the 1971 War of Independence, however, the ICT in its present form does neither of these two things. The likely execution of Kamaruzzaman will be the second instance of state sponsored murder concerning proceedings before the ICT, the first being the execution of Abdul Quader Molla.
The ICT has not adhered to its obligations under domestic Bangladesh law, nor has it met its obligations under those international treaties and agreements to which Bangladesh is a state party, in its failure to ensure all those who appear before it are afforded a fair trial.
At all stages of the process, from court of first instance to appellate courts, the ICT has either failed to acknowledge the serious shortcomings of the procedures adopted, or, if it has recognised such shortcomings, it has failed to address them.
The Supreme Court in considering the review petition should have highlighted the clear procedural and evidential issues, and gone on to allow that petition thus ensuring that the convictions and sentence were quashed.
The appropriate course of action would be to then order a re-trial so as to enable the procedural errors to be rectified.
It is of the utmost concern that both the ruling Awami League, and those responsible for the administration of justice in Bangladesh have so far ignored the clear and legitimate international criticism of the ICT, and instead sought to silence dissent domestically and internationally by bringing contempt proceedings against those voices that do not adhere to the party line.
A tribunal seeking to address those crimes which have resulted in an open wound for over four decades cannot adopt a ‘conviction at all costs’ mentality and still effectively address impunity and offer justice.
To operate in such a manner simply re-affirms the principle of ‘victors justice’, and paints a picture of retribution rather than justice. It is not too late to address these inadequacies however, and the CLA would therefore call upon the ruling Awami League government to immediately:
1. Stay all convictions and on-going proceedings before the ICT;
2. Order an immediate investigation and review into the procedures of the ICT;
3. Adopt a formal moratorium on the death penalty; and
4. Take steps to develop a truly international tribunal, taking advantage of the assistance previously offered by international experts in the field.
Note to the editor:
CLA is a pan-Commonwealth organisation which seeks to uphold the rule of law in the Commonwealth by encouraging exchange of ideas between legal professionals, academics and students, through projects and by driving improvements in legal education.
The full statement can be downloaded here.
Source: Commonwealth Lawyers Association