We have received a report that two Bangladeshi workers, Noor Muhammad and Selim, were abducted on Friday 15 March by a group of Bangladeshis near the Bangladesh High Commission and taken in a car there where they were tortured in your presence until the police arrived and rescued them. The thugs tortured them by using hockey sticks, rods and other lethal weapons.
The abductors are suspected to be your staff or Awami League supporters. We are shocked that you allowed your fellow citizens to be tortured in your presence when you should have protected them and taken action against the criminals.
The abduction took place when Noor and Selim together with another Bangladeshi Tonu were waiting for a taxi after taking part in a peaceful demonstration in front of the High Commission. The demonstration, organized by Malaysians, was against the verdict of death sentence imposed on the highly respected Bangladeshi preacher Maulana Delwar Hossain Sayedee by the so-called International Crimes Tribunal (ICT).
The law governing the ICT and its proceedings which are in violation of national and international standards have received strong criticism from eminent lawyers and human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Some observers have even dismissed the ICT as a kangaroo court set up to take political revenge against Islamic parties, particularly Jamaat Islami, and to break up the alliance between Jamaat and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
People are outraged by the politicization of the ICT trials and the death sentence handed down to Maulana Sayedee and have held demonstrations in front of Bangladesh embassies in many countries. Complaints to the ICT judges by the defence team about the abduction of a witness in the ICT courthouse, the harassment of defence lawyers and witnesses, and the prosecutor committing fraud in the face of the court, substantiated by irrefutable evidence, have been ignored by the judges hearing Maulana Sayedee’s case.
The judges who delivered the verdict of death sentence in Maulana Sayedee’s case dismissed the application by the defendant for a retrial on the ground that they did not hear the witnesses’ evidence and therefore were not in a position to decide on their credibility. Findings on the credibility of witnesses are critical in this case because the evidence they gave was largely 40 year old hearsay.
The improper conduct of the judges is unsurprising in the light of the Economist’srevelation [December 15, 2012] of collusion between the chairman of the ICT Mohamed Nizamul Haque, the prosecutors, Minister of law Shafique Ahmed and a lawyer of Bengali origin living in Belgium Dr. Ahmed Ziauddin to convict Maulana Syedee, the 90 year old Maulana Gholam Azam and the other defendants. A conviction and sentence of death obtained through Executive interference, collusion and subversion of the legal process would amount to judicial murder for which the perpetrators can be made accountable in law.
The Bangladesh judiciary which once enjoyed high international prestige has been reduced to a conduit for serving the Executive; thus burying the rule of law and the separation of powers, the twin pillars on which a democratic society is anchored. It is still not too late to redeem the good name of your judiciary.
We urge you to convey the following humble suggestions from Malaysian civil society to your government for ending the political crisis in Bangladesh and saving the integrity and independence of your judiciary:
- Dissolve the International Crimes Tribunal and refer all international crimes cases to the International Criminal Court whose decisions will not be perceived as being tainted by Executive interference and undue influence. By ratifying the Rome Treaty, your government has expressed confidence in ICC’s competence, independence and integrity.
- Stop the witch hunt of Islamic political parties and engage them in dialogue for directing the efforts and energy of the government and the people towards improving the economic conditions of the people, wiping out corruption and building a democratic society.
Your government must know that Bangladesh is one of the poorest nations in the world. Over 70% of the population survive on less than $2 a day. Bangladesh is ranked 146th out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index (HDI) ranking, just above Sub-Saharan Africa. Corruption is pervasive and the judiciary is the most corrupt institution, according to Transparency International.
Bangladesh need not be in this pitiable state because it has vast resources, human and material, to build a good, vibrant and equitable society. What is holding it back is the lack of wise political leadership which knows how to unite the people and inspire them to great achievements without being trapped in primitive revenge politics.
Your government should heed the advice of your former foreign minister Dr. Kamal Hossein who said: “We are in a constitutional system. To formulate a national consensus is very much necessary to avoid violence. Political tolerance is a must in multiparty democracy. All political parties, ideologies are important for the nation.”
S. M Mohamed Idris