Lord Carlile of Berriew CBE QC issued a letter which he sent to the Bangladesh High Commissioner in London.
I write to you to express my grave concern regarding recent developments in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) has passed three verdicts over recent days. Two senior Jamaat leaders have been sentenced to death, and the Assistant Secretary-General of Jamaat has had his conviction and death sentence confirmed by the appellate division of the Supreme Court.
All of these verdicts follow what can only be described as being a flawed trial process. In terms of Mr. Kamaruzzaman, the Government of Bangladesh and specifically the Attorney-General Mr Mahbubey Alam have noted that his execution was only “a matter of time”.
The authorities appear ready to ignore established domestic law which clearly states that Kamaruzzaman has the right to request that the sentence be ‘reviewed’ and further, the right to petition for clemency.
Any steps being taken to carry out the sentence must immediately halted as the judicial process has not been exhausted. Failure to do so, and failure to allow Kamaruzzaman to exercise his rights will result in the sentence being nothing more than an instance of extra-judicial killing.
There has been great concern expressed over the conduct of the trials and appeal process. A number of international legal and human rights experts have expressed concern over the standards applied and in particular the curtailment of human rights and fundamental rights. The UN Office of the High Commissioner has repeatedly called for the Bangladesh authorities to bring its procedures in line with its international obligations. It has repeatedly failed to do so.
Throughout proceedings the Tribunal has placed limits on the conduct of the defence case. It has restricted the number of defence exhibits, preparation time and the number of defence witnesses.
Bangladesh politics has an unfortunate history of cyclical acts of retribution against previous administrations. Yet this Tribunal may herald a far worse outcome. The country’s political landscape risks being polarised and poisoned for a generation.
Reconciliation will be only be served by:
‐ The immediate commencement of a reconstituted, internationally sanctioned and supervised war crimes tribunal;
‐ A moratorium on all executions handed down by the Tribunal;
‐ A fully independent inquiry into the existing judgments given by the ICT;
‐ A halt to all current trials until the above measures are implemented;
If Bangladesh continues its current trajectory, another political tinderbox may be lit in this already troubled region. Only through international pressure to reconstitute this Tribunal, adhering to internationally accepted norms of human rights and fairness, can Bangladeshis truly reconcile with the past and move forwards as a nation.
I appeal to the judiciary, and the Government of Bangladesh to observe the obligations imposed by national and international law and grants Kamaruzzaman his right of review. I would further appeal to the President to immediately commute all death sentences which are opposed on principle.
[Images of the scanned letter can be viewed below.]
Cover Image: BBC