In a press statement published by the House of Lords, Lord Carlile of Berriew QC CBE expressed regrets about the decision of the Bangladeshi Supreme Court to dismiss the defence petition for review in respect of the conviction and death sentence of Mohammad Kamaruzzaman; and that the Court in doing so failed to address clear deficiencies in the trial and appellate process that resulted in Kamaruzzaman’s fair trial rights not being upheld. Lord Carlile described the death sentence as ‘an injustice that diminishes the Bangladesh justice system in the eyes of the Common Law world’.
Mohammad Kamaruzzaman was convicted and sentenced to death on 9 May 2013, by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), on five counts of crimes against humanity.
The original trial had numerous legal and procedural flaws, including the lack of respect for the presumption of innocence, and complete derogation from fair trial principles.
Despite these failures not being addressed on appeal, it was hoped that the Supreme Court, having considered the review petition submitted by the defence team, would have sought to rectify these clear failings, allowing the review, and thus ordering a re-trial.
That the Supreme Court has not done so undermines the principle of justice at the ICT. Regard must be had into particular that the ICT and the trial of Kamaruzzaman has been subject to criticism from a number of independent international experts including Human Rights Watch, No Peace Without Justice, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and Ambassador Stephen J. Rapp, the US Ambassador for Global Justice.
Such experts have no political agenda. Their intention is only to attempt to ensure that justice is done in accordance with accepted international standards.
Lord Carlile reaffirmed that the ‘principle’ of the ICT is not criticized. The intention to pursue justice for those victims that lost their lives during the 1971 War of Independence is to be commended and is supported. However, this pursuit of justice must not be used to undermine political opposition, nor should there be an intention to convict at all costs, which appears to be the case.
Repeated calls on the Awami League Government are therefore reaffirmed in that they are called upon to immediately:
1. Stay the execution of Mr. Kamaruzzaman;
2. Order an independent inquiry into the conduct of both the prosecution and the judiciary;
3. Stay all further proceedings before the tribunal until that investigation is complete;
4. Adopt a moratorium on capital punishment; and
5. Establish a truly international tribunal in accordance with the recommendations of international experts who have commented on the significant flaws in the process.