Lord Carlile writes to UNHR Commissioner appealing action on Bangladesh ICT and human rights situation

Lord-Carlile_1529416c
  • Vice-Chair of UK Parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity calls for urgent international supervision of war crimes trials in Bangladesh
  • Criticises omission of Bangladesh from Commissioner’s recent speech in Geneva
  • Blames International Crimes Tribunal for ‘politically motivated sentencing that is fuelling unrest on the streets’
  • Highlights retroactive death penalty sentencing by Bangladesh Supreme Court in the case of Abdul Quader Mollah as a ‘breach of international law’ 
  • Concurs with Human Rights Watch criticism of Mollah verdict 
  • Calls for the International Crimes Tribunal to be brought under immediate international supervision
  • Asks for urgent action to preserve free and fair elections later this year

Lord Allex Carlile QC, one of the UK’s leading legal experts, today sent a strongly worded open letter to Navay Pillay, the United Nation’s Human Rights Commissioner. Ms Pillay received a joint letter from Lord Carlile and fellow House of Lords Member Lord Avebury in June of this year that expressed alarm over the human rights situation in Bangladesh. Lord Carlile has re-written to the Commissioner after his first communication went unanswered.

Lord Carlile reiterates his concerns over what he believes is a politically motivated International Crimes Tribunal. The tribunal was set up by the current government to try those accused of wear crimes during the 1971 War of Independence from Pakistan.

In the letter, Lord Carlile writes: ‘It would be useful to understand why Bangladesh was omitted from the many countries mentioned in your speech that face human rights challenges.
‘Months from an election those critical of the government face harassment or arrest. International legal and human rights campaigners have universally condemned the locally managed International Crimes Tribunal for its impartial judges and politically motivated sentencing that is fuelling unrest on the streets. The abduction of witnesses and repeated instances of serious prosecutorial and judicial misconduct completely undermine this process.

Lord Carlile continues: ‘International criminal justice must be enforced in a way that is not only complementary to national criminal jurisdictions, but also respectful of international human rights standards and international standards of procedure, fairness and transparency. Any lesser standard would negate the overall goal of securing the peace, security and wellbeing of a nation.

‘Yesterday’s judgment by the Bangladesh Supreme Court on the case of Abdul Quader Mollah is even more disturbing. The Bangladeshi government completely disregarded the deeply held concerns raised by a critical report from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention last year, which described the process as arbitrary and breach of international law. This decision to deny the accused a right of appeal or review is in clear breach of international legal norms and should be roundly condemned.

‘With elections looming, it is for the benefit of Bangladeshi’s of all political or religious persuasions that human rights and free speech are respected. This is clearly not the case at the moment.’

ENDS

Contact:

Lord Carlile
9-12 Bell Yard
London WC2A 2JR
+44 (0)20 7400 1800

Note to Editors

The Full text of the letter from Lord Carlile QC to Navay Pillay is below. A copy of the signed letter is attached as a pdf to this message.

From
The Lord Carlile of Berriew QC CBE

H E Navi Pillay
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland

Friday, September 20th 2013

Re: Trials before the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), Bangladesh

Dear High Commissioner,

I write in relation to an urgent human rights situation in Bangladesh as a member of the All- Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group in the UK Parliament. I wrote to you on June 7 2013 expresses my deep concern about the deteriorating human rights situation in Bangladesh. I specifically highlighted the deterioration of standards at the International Crimes Tribunal. I am disappointed I have yet to receive a reply.

Your recent speech in Geneva contained several welcome statements on securing lasting solutions to violations in Syria, Egypt and Iraq amongst others. Yet you made one startling omission – Bangladesh. It would be useful to understand why Bangladesh was omitted from the many countries mentioned in your speech that faces human rights challenges.

Months from an election those critical of the government face harassment or arrest. International legal and human rights campaigners have universally condemned the locally managed International Crimes Tribunal for its impartial judges and politically motivated sentencing that is fuelling unrest on the streets. The abduction of witnesses and repeated instances of serious prosecutorial and judicial misconduct completely undermine this process.

As I outlined in my letter to you in June, international criminal justice must be ‘enforced in a way that is not only complementary to national criminal jurisdictions, but also respectful of international human rights standards and international standards of procedure, fairness and transparency. Any lesser standard would negate the overall goal of securing the peace, security and wellbeing of a nation’.

This week’s judgment by the Bangladesh Supreme Court on the case of Abdul Quader Mollah is even more disturbing. The Bangladesh Supreme Court allowed the retrospective application of the death penalty. The Appellant has been prevented from exercising any further appeal.

The Bangladeshi government completely disregarded the deeply held concerns raised by a critical report from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention last year, which described the process as arbitrary and breach of international law. This decision to deny the accused a right of appeal or review is in clear breach of international legal norms and should be roundly condemned.

I strongly agree with Human Rights Watch’s assessment of the Mollah judgment (‘Bangladesh: Death Sentence Violates Fair Trial Standards’, 18th September). They are correct in that to change the law and apply it retroactively post-trial ‘offends basic notions of a fair trial under international law.’

Secretary of State Kerry’s call for dialogue between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her opponent, Khaleda Zia is welcome. But for lasting peace the International Crimes Tribunal must be placed under international supervision. First this means Commissioners such as yourself must utilise your high office not only to recognize the crisis in Bangladesh but also to speak out about it.

With elections looming, it is for the benefit of Bangladeshis of all political or religious persuasions that human rights and free speech are respected. This is clearly not the case at the moment. I strongly request a reply on this matter.

Yours Sincerely,

 

Image source: The Daily Telegraph / Abbie Trayler-Smith