Mollah death penalty; details of the charge

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The appellate division today (17 September 2013)  dismissed appeals made by Quader Molla’s lawyers against his conviction on five counts of crimes against humanity. Instead the court upheld unanimously that his acquittal on charge no 4 should be reversed and should stand as a conviction, and most significantly that, by a majority, the sentence on charge no 6 (the murder of a family), should be changed from life imprisonment to a death penalty.

No judgment was read out. A written judgement will be made available in due course.

Below is an extract from the original ICT judgment relating to charge no 6. It should be noted that the only evidence is the testimony of a woman, a member of the family that was murdered 40 years ago, and who was a young girl at the time the murders took place. There was no other corroborating evidence.

At the end of the judgment extract is an extract from the defence arguments made at the time of trial arguing that the women’s testimony could not be relied upon

You can read the rest of the judgement and other details of the trial proceedings here

Adjudication of Charge No.06 [Killing of Hazrat Ali and his family and Rape]335. Summary Charge No.06: During the period of War of Liberation , on 26.3.1971 at about 06:00 pm the accused Abdul Quader Molla one of leaders of Islami Chatra Sangha and as well as prominent member of Al-Badar or member of group of individuals being accompanied by some biharis and Pakistani army went to the house of Hajrat Ali at 21, Kalapani Lane No. 5 at Mirpur Section-12 and entering inside the house forcibly, with intent to kill Bangalee civilians, his accomplices under his leadership and on his order killed Hazrat Ali by gun fire, his wife Amina was gunned down and then slaughtered to death, their two minor daughters named Khatija and Tahmina were also slaughtered to death, their son Babu aged 02 years was also killed by dashing him to the ground violently. During the same transaction of the attack 12 accomplices of the accused committed gang rape upon a minor Amela aged 11 years but another minor daughter Momena who remained into hiding, on seeing the atrocious acts, eventually escaped herself from the clutches of the perpetrators. By such acts and conduct the accused had actively participated, facilitated, aided and substantially contributed to the attack directed upon the unarmed civilians, causing commission of the horrific murders and rape by launching planned attack directing the non-combatant civilians and thereby committed the offence of ‘murder’ as ‘crime against humanity’, ‘rape’ as ‘crime against humanity’, ‘aiding and abetting the commission of such crimes’ or in the alternative the offence of ‘complicity in committing such offences’ as mentioned in section 3(2)(a)(g)(h) of the International Crimes(Tribunals) Act,1973 which are punishable under section 20(2) read with section 3(1) of the Act.

Witness336. Prosecution adduced and examined only one witness in support of this charge. It examined Momena Begum as P.W.3. She is the only survived member of victim family and daughter of Hazrat Ali. She witnessed the horrendous event of killing and rape. The event happened inside their house and thus naturally none else had occasion to see the event committed. P.W.3 Momena Begum testified in camera as permitted by the Tribunal. She made heartrending narration of the atrocious event that she witnessed with choked voice. At the relevant time she was 13 years old and newly wedded.

Discussion of Evidence337. P.W.3 Momena Begum has testified that she is the only survived member of their family. The event took place on 26th March 1971. According to P.W.3 at the relevant time they had been living in the house no. 21 of no. 5 Kalapani lane of Mirpur 12. It remains unshaken and undisputed too.

338. P.W.3 while narrating the incident on witness box stated that on 26th March 1971 just immediate before the dusk her father hastily came back to home and was telling frightened that Qauder Molla would kill him. Aktar goonda and his Bihari accomplices and Pakistani army were chasing her father to kill him. Her father entering inside house closed the door and at that time her parents and brothers and sisters were inside the room. On being asked by her father she and her sister Amena kept themselves in hiding under the cot. She heard that Quader Molla and biharis coming in front of the door started telling- “son of a bitch, open the door, otherwise we will throw bomb”. They threw a bomb as her father did not open the door and thereafter, her mother having a ‘dao’ in hand opened the door and instantly they gunned down her mother. Her father attempted to hold her mother and then accused Quader Molla holding collar of wearing shirt of her father was telling- “ son of a pig, would you not do now Awami league? Would you not follow Bangabandhu? Would you not utter the slogan ‘Joy Bangla’?” Then her father folded hands begged Quader Molla and Aktar goonda to spare him. But the accused Abdul Quader Molla dragged her father outside the room. His accomplices slaughtered her mother with a ‘dao’, also slaughtered her sisters Khodeja and Taslima with a ‘chapati’ (at this stage, P.W.3 on dock started crying shedding tears).

339. P.W.3 further stated, by memorizing the horrendous event that her two years old brother Babu started crying but he was also killed by dashing him to the ground violently. On hearing cry of Babu, her sister Amena started howling and then they dragged Amena from under the cot and tortured her by ragging her wearing clothes. Amena had raised cry to save her and at a stage her cry came to an end. Thereafter, they also had dragged her out from under the cot by causing injury with some sharpen object and then she raised cry and lost her sense. When she regained her sense she felt severe pain at abdomen and she could not walk and found her wearing pant in ragged condition. She somehow, there from, came to one house at ‘Fakirbari’ where its inmates found her in bleeding condition wearing ragged pant and then they made arrangement of her treatment by calling a doctor on the following day and then on being informed by them her father-in-law came there and brought her to his house where she was given necessary treatment.

340. P.W.3 further stated that in 1971 she could not forget the scene of killing of her parents, brother and sisters which she herself witnessed and being traumatized she was almost mentally imbalanced and now she is in fact dead although still alive. At the time of identifying the accused on dock P.W.3 carrying immense heartache stated that she wanted to ask the accused—‘where is my father’?

341. The above narration as to the commission of horrific event could not be dislodged by the defence in any manner. Rather, P.W.3, on cross- examination has re-affirmed that at the time of event they all were inside one room of their house. She could not see who killed her father but she, remaining in hiding under a cot, saw Quader Molla dragging her father out.

342. P.W.3 , in cross-examination, in reply to question elicited to her by defence stated that the Bangalee person accompanying the Biharis and Pakistani army who was speaking in Bangla and dragged her father out holding his shirt’s collar was Quader Molla and she saw it remaining in hiding under the cot. Thus, the presence of accused Abdul Qauder Molla at the crime site has been re-affirmed by P.W.3.

343. On cross-examination, P.W.3 has reaffirmed the horrific incident of killing and torture. She stated that her mother was slaughtered inside the room when her father was forcibly dragged out and she did not see her father’s killing. Thereafter, Biharis slaughtered her sisters Khodeja and Taslima inside the room. The Pakistani army and Biharis killed her brother by dashing him to the ground violently. They dragged out her sister Amena and caused successive torture.

344. As regards father’s killing P.W.3 stated in cross-examination that after independence Akkas member informed her that Quader Molla had killed her father. She also stated that gang of 10-12 persons attacked their house and of them only one person wearing Pajama-Panjabi who was speaking in Bangla was Quader Molla.

Evaluation of Evidence and Finding345. Defence does not deny an orgy of atrocities that took place on the date time and in the manner. But it refutes the charge that the accused was at the very centre of the web of these crimes as have been brought in charge number 6. It has been argued by the learned defence counsel that P.W.3 Momena Begum is not the daughter of victim Hazrat Ali Laskar. Prosecution has failed to bring any corroborative evidence to substantiate the charge. There has been no evidence to show that accused Abdul Quader Molla has overt act to the commission of alleged crimes.

346. First, the argument that P.W.3 Momena Begum is not a daughter of victim Hazrat Ali Laskar is deprecated one. Without any evidence or putting suggestion to P.W.3 on the basis of any tangible evidence no such argument stands lawful and correct. Besides, on cross-examination, in reply to question put to her, P.W.3 stated that her father was running a tailoring shop at Mirpur 01 in front of Majar and she also used to work there prior to her marriage.

347. It appears that the charge does not allege that the accused himself personally committed the crime of murder of inmates of P.W.3. But ‘murder’ as a crime against humanity does not require the prosecution to establish that the accused personally committed the killing. The crimes alleged are not isolated crimes. We are not agreed with the argument advanced by the learned defence counsel Mr. Abdus Sobhan Tarafder that the accused cannot be held responsible for the offence of murder as listed in charge no.6 as the prosecution has failed to establish the overt act of the accused. The case in hand involves the offences enumerated in the Act of 1973 which are also considered as system crimes committed in violation of customary international law. Overt act of accused Abdul Quader Molla is immaterial as he has not been charged for committing any isolated crime. He is alleged to have accompanied the gang of perpetrators to the crime site. Jurisprudence evolved suggests that even a single act on part of accused may lawfully be characterized as the offence of crimes against humanity.

348. In the case in hand, we are just to adjudicate how the accused incurs responsibility for the accomplishment of the crime. What of his conducts or acts has made him responsible? It is to be noted that even a single or limited number of acts on the accused’s part would qualify an offence as crime against humanity. In addition, in certain circumstances, a single act of the accused has comprised a crime against humanity when it occurred within the necessary context.

349. It has been proved beyond reasonable doubt that P.W.3 had witnessed the incident of killing her parents, sisters and minor brother committed at their own house. Miraculously she escaped. She is a traumatized witness and a survived victim. At the time of incident she was a girl of 13 years of age. One can say that how she can memorize the incident long 41 years after the incident took place? It is true that with the passage of time human memory becomes faded. But it is also the reality that human memory is quite capable of reserving some significant moment or incident in the hard disc of his or her memory which is considered as long term memory (LTM) and it is never erased from human memory.
350. We have found that the following version of P.W.3 remains unshaken: “the accused Quader Molla holding collar of wearing shirt of her father was telling- “son of a pig, would you do now Awami league? Would you not follow Bangabandhu? Would you not utter the slogan ‘Joi Bangla’?” Then her father folded hands begged Quader Molla and Aktar goonda (terrorist) to leave him. But the accused Abdul Quader Molla dragged her father outside the room and since then he could not be traced. His accomplices slaughtered her mother with a ‘dao’; slaughtered her sisters Khodeja and Taslima with a ‘chapati’.”

351. It is need less to say that the horrific event that the P.W.3 herself experienced is inevitably still retained in her memory. There has been no earthly reason to disbelieve this witness. Rather, she seems to be a natural live witness who sustained severe mental trauma experiencing the horrific killing of her parents, sisters and minor brother in front of herself.

352. We do not find any reason to view that P.W.3 had no reason or scope to know the accused Quader Molla, particularly when statement of P.W.3 demonstrates that according to her father, Abdul Quader Molla was chasing him and her father begged life from Abdul Quader Molla and Aktar goonda. It is found that on the following day of ‘crack down’ in Dhaka the incident of brutal killing of parents and other inmates of P.W.3 Momena took place, in violation of customary international law.

353. Already it has been found that the crimes for which the accused has been charged were not isolated in pattern and the same were the outcome of organized and systematic attack directed against the civilian population. Now, let us find what were the conducts on part of the accused prior to the commission of the crime and whether he accompanied the principal perpetrators who were local notorious Bihari and hooligans.

354. The incident of killing of parents, two sisters and one minor brother on the day time and in the manner remains unshaken. It is a fact of common knowledge that Mirpur is a locality of the then Dhaka city having mostly bihari population and accused Abdul Quader Molla used to maintain close and culpable affiliation with the local bihari goonda and pro-Pakistani people and already we have found from evidence of P.W.2 that Abdul Quader Molla was closely associated with the Jamat E Islami (JEI) politics and was a potential leader of ICS. Admittedly, at the relevant time he was a leader of ICS of Shahidullah Hall, Dhaka University.

355. Evidence of P.W.3 amply demonstrates that Abdul Quader Molla by accompanying the gang consisting of Biharis, local Aktar goonda and Pakistani army to the crime site, in other words, substantially facilitated and aided the commission of the horrendous killings. Why the accused, being a Bangalee civilian accompanied the local Bihari hooligans? Why he used to maintain culpable association with them even since prior to 25 march 1971?

356. It is to be noted that now it is settled that even mere presence at the scene of the crime may, under certain circumstances, be sufficient to qualify as complicity. From the evidence of P.W. 3 , a live witness, it is found that the accused by his presence in the crime site and by his culpable acts substantially encouraged and facilitated the main perpetrators in committing the crime and also he shared the intent similar to that of the main perpetrators and thus obviously he knew the consequence of his acts which provided moral support and assistance to the principal perpetrators. Therefore, the accused cannot be relieved from criminal responsibility. In the case of Prosecutor Vs. Charles Ghankay Taylor : Trial Chamber II SCSL: Judgment 26 April 2012 Paragraph 166 it has been observed that- “The essential mental element required for aiding and abetting is that the accused knew that his acts would assist the commission of the crime by the perpetrator or that he was aware of the substantial likelihood that his acts would assist the commission of a crime by the perpetrator. In cases of specific intent crimes, such as acts of terrorism, the accused must also be aware of the specific intent of the perpetrator.”

357. Acts and conduct of accused Abdul Quader Molla at the crime site adequately suggest inferring his intent and knowledge. It is proved that he at the launch of the event dragged Hazrat Ali Laskar out of his house and before it the gang gunned down his wife. It is patent that the accused was sufficiently aware of likelihood that his acts would assist the principals in committing crimes. Thus, the accused is found to have actively and substantially encouraged and abetted the gang of perpetrators in committing the crime of killing of family inmates of Hazrat Ali Laskar.

358. The Tribunal notes that accused Abdul Quader Molla had physically participated in the attack targeting the father and family members of the P.W.3 as her father belonged to Awami League politics and was a pro-liberation civilian. Testimony of P.W3 demonstrates evidently that the accused, by his acts of ‘accompanying’ the gang of Bihari and local Aktar goonda and also by an act of forcibly dragging Hazrat Ali Laskar out of house, Abdul Quader Molla’s presence in the crime site made him criminally linked with the commission of the offence of killing of Bangalee civilians. Thus, it is lawfully presumed that the accused had actus reus in providing moral support and aid to the commission of offence. The actus reus of abetting requires assistance, encouragement or moral support which has a substantial effect on the perpetration of the crimes.

359. Now the question has been raised by the defence that the principal offenders have not been identified and brought to the process of justice and thus the accused cannot be held responsible as aider and abettor. It has been held by the Appeal Chamber of ICTY, in the case of Kristic that – “A defendant may be convicted for having aided and abetted a crime which requires specific intent even where the principal perpetrators have not been tried or identified ( April 19, 2004 para 143 of the judgement) .”

360. No person of normal human prudence will come to a conclusion that at the time of incident of part of systematic attack, the accused who accompanied the principal perpetrators had a different or innocent intent. Rather, the evidence of P.W.3 demonstrates that the accused and the principals made the attack with common intent to accomplish their explicit and similar intent of killing.

361. Mr. Abdur Razzak the learned senior counsel for defence argued by citing the decision of Appeal Chamber: ICTR in the case of Sylvetre Gacumbitsh [Case No. ICTR-2001-64-A] that according to causation standard for aiding and abetting that the acts must have a ‘substantial effect’ on the commission of the crime. The learned counsel also drew attention to the following paragraph [Page-199-Para 688 of Prosecutor v. DU[KO TADI] ICTY Trial Chamber: Case No. IT-94-I-]: “The ILC Draft Code draws on these cases from the Nuremberg war crimes trials and other customary law, and concludes that an accused may be found culpable if it is proved that he “intentionally commits such a crime” or, inter alia, if he knowingly aids, abets or otherwise assists, directly and substantially, in the commission of such a crime.“

362. Presence of an accused alone in the crime site may not always be sufficient to infer his contribution and assistance of the accused in the commission of crime committed by the principals. But we have found too in the case of Prosecutor v. Tadic [ICTY Trial Chamber: Case No. IT-94-I-T] wherein it has been observed as below: “………….However, if the presence can be shown or inferred, by circumstantial or other evidence, to be knowing and to have a direct and substantial effect on the commission of the illegal act, then it is sufficient on which to base a finding of participation and assign the criminal culpability that accompanies it .”

363. In the case in hand, evidence of P,W.3 inescapably shows that the accused actively and knowing the consequence of his acts accompanied the gang of perpetrators to the crime site and by his illegal act of forcibly dragging Hazrat Ali Laskar out of house he substantially facilitated the commission of crimes committed by the principals. Therefore it cannot be said at all that the accused’s presence at the crime site and accompanying the principals were devoid of guilty intent.

364. Accompanying the perpetrators while attacking the inmates of the P.W.3 is a significant indicia that the accused provided substantial assistance and moral support for accomplishment of the crime, although his acts had not actually caused the commission of the crime of killing in the crime site. In this regard, we may rely upon the decision of the Trial Chamber of ICTR in the case of Kamubanda [ January 22, 2004, para 597] which runs as below: “Such acts of assistance……. Need not have actually caused the commission of the crime by the actual perpetrator, but must have had a substantial effect on the commission of the crime by the actual perpetrator”.

365. Thus, we find that the accused Abdul Quader Molla physically and having ‘awareness’ as to his acts participated and substantially abetted and encouraged to the commission of the crime. The manner time and pattern of conduct of the accused Abdul Quader Molla at the crime site and also prior to the commission of the crime is the best indication of his conscious option to commit a crime. Intent, coupled with affirmative action, is evidence of the highest degree of imputative responsibility. Acts on part of the accused at the crime site are thus qualified as crimes against humanity as the same formed part of attack directing the unarmed civilian population. His acts were of course culpable in nature which contributed to the commission of murder of Hazrat Ali Laskar and also to the commission of murder and rape committed in conjunction of the event at the crime site.

366. The testimony of a single witness on a material fact does not, as a matter of law, require corroboration. In such situations, the Tribunal has carefully scrutinized the evidence of P.W.3 the live witness before relying upon it to a decisive extent. Since the horrific event was committed in a dwelling house, the inmates of the house are natural witnesses. If murder is committed in a street, only passerby will be witnesses. P.W.3 is the only survived member of victim family and thus her evidence cannot be brushed aside or viewed with suspicion. Besides, it is to be noted that the testimony of a single witness on a material fact does not, as a matter of law, require corroboration. The established jurisprudence is clear that corroboration is not a legal requirement for a finding to be made. “Corroboration of evidence is not necessarily required and a Chamber may rely on a single witness’ testimony as proof of a material fact. As such, a sole witness’ testimony could suffice to justify a conviction if the Chamber is convinced beyond all reasonable doubt.” [ Nchamihigo, (ICTR Trial Chamber), November 12, 2008, para. 14].

367. Indeed, within a single attack, there may exist a combination of the enumerated crimes, for example murder, rape etc. In view of discussion as made above and taking the settled jurisprudence into account eventually we are persuaded that the acts of accused Abdul Quader Molla , as has been testified by the P.W.3, in the course of implementation of the actual crime of killings and rape, render him criminally responsible for the commission of the crime that has been established to have taken place as a part of systematic attack and as such the accused Abdul Quader Molla is found to have incurred criminal liability under section 4(1) of the Act for the offence as mentioned in section 3(2)(a) of the Act of 1973 which are punishable under section 20(2) read with section 3(1) of the said Act.

Extract from defence closing arguments 
To see more about defence closing arguments, click here

Charge 6: Murder and rape as crimes against humanity
The Prosecution relies on the live testimony of PW 3 (Momena Begum), who was present during the commission of offences charged.

The Defence calls into question the reliability of PW 3’s testimony. At the time of the alleged offence, PW 3 was a young child, clearly traumatised by the events she witnesses including the killing of her entire family and rape of her sister. This culminated in a period of insanity for three years (“I was insane for three years after…they tied me by chain”, (PW 3, Cross examination 17 July 2012). Although she admitted to being in hiding during the commission of offence, she provided a number of detailed points as abovementioned. However, PW 3 was unable to state how she was able to see or indeed recall who was present in the house at the time or furthermore, how she knew that the Accused was present. She did not describe the Accused at the time or state that she knew him prior to the offence so as to be able to recognize him. She was further unable to describe the role of the Accused in the alleged incidents. She did not state whether the Accused ordered the killings or rape, aided and abetted in the killings or rape or indeed directly perpetrated the killings. Instead she continuously referred to the generic “they” to describe the alleged perpetrators without elaborating as to whom this included.

It is submitted that PW 3 was unable to identify the Accused as his alleged presence at the commission of offence is entirely based upon hearsay. In examination in chief, PW 3 testified “Kamal Khan who served tea to the freedom fighters told me that Quader Molla killed my parents. My father in law, Akkas Molla also told me the same” (PW 3, Examination in chief, 17 July 2012.) PW 3 thereby admitted that she did not know at the time who committed the offences and was only told at a subsequent date. This is in direct contradiction to her examination in chief wherein she sought to assert that she recognized the Accused at the time. This amounts to no more than hearsay evidence to which the relevant considerations must apply as detailed above.

The Defence further highlights that following her recovery, PW 3 admittedly never reported the atrocities that she witnesses or named the Accused as bearing any criminal responsibility. Given the circumstances in which PW 3 would have witnessed the commission of offences and that she admittedly was told of the Accused’s alleged involvement after the fact, and in light of no further supporting evidence, it is submitted that the Prosecution has failed to prove the Accused’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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