October 1, 2013
From The Lord Carlile of Berriew QC CBE
Lord Carlile, UK’s leading lawyer and war crimes expert, voices further concerns over war crimes
tribunals in Bangladesh.
Guilty verdict in case of SQ Chowdhury highlights ‘a legal process that is not fit for purpose.’ New allegations of executive interference.
• Expresses alarm over sentencing of opposition leader SQ Chowdhury
• Asks for investigation into allegations that judgment was influenced by a government
• Will make direct representations to Britain’s Foreign Secretary
Today one of Britain’s leading lawyers rounded on the Bangladesh Government for their continuation of a controversial war crimes tribunal that now faces further international criticism. Lord Carlile QC, the Vice-Chair of UK Parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, accused the Bangladesh government of running a ‘profoundly compromised legal process’. His criticism comes as SQ Chowdhury, a leading figure in the opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP) was found guilty in a trial that has been criticised by human rights organisations and international legal experts.
Lord Carlile also stated he was concerned by new allegations that SQ Chowdhury’s judgment was prepared by the Ministry of Law and Parliamentary Affairs as far back as May 2013. This was before some of the witnesses in the case were even heard by the tribunal.
Lord Carlile’s criticism also follows a strongly worded letter last week to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay. In that letter he noted that International legal and human rights campaigners have ‘universally condemned’ the Tribunal for its ‘politically motivated sentencing that is fuelling unrest on the streets.’ He also told the High Commissioner that ‘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.’
Commenting today, Lord Carlile said:
‘As an experienced voice on the subject of war crimes and human rights, I feel it is my duty to press for an urgent international response to this flawed process. The Bangladeshi Government has ignored the genuine concerns of the international legal community, as well as human rights organisations and governments. The judgment given today in the case of SQ Chowdhury shines another light on a legal process that is not fit for purpose. Witnesses were abducted and there have been proven cases of interference from the executive.
‘After each judgment, many hoped this tribunal would listen to the valid concerns of the international legal community. There has been no attempt at reform. The legitimacy of this court continues to diminish as the Bangladeshi government has ridden roughshod over fundamental legal norms.
‘At the UN General Assembly last week, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina attempted to paint these trials as a noble enterprise. She argues they will bring justice and closure to victims of the terrible crimes committed in 1971. However, they will do no such thing. These tribunals have proved so divisive, and have been so poorly managed, they risk polarising Bangladesh for a generation and poisoning political debate before the elections. This may lead to significant unrest and instability on the streets, which will only be magnified at election time.
‘I am also alarmed about allegations the Bangladeshi Ministry of Law and Parliamentary Affairs formulated the judgment of SQ Chowdhury in May of this year. I have seen documents that suggest this may be true, although they must be independently verified. If proven true, they represent a profound breach of trust on behalf of the government.
‘Along with others in the legal community, I have already made representations to the United Nations on this matter. I will continue to press for an internationally supervised tribunal that can deliver real justice for Bangladeshis. I will also write to the Foreign Secretary and urge him to give this subject his urgent attention. As Bangladesh’s largest aid donor, it is now time to make a stand against such flagrant human rights violations .’
The Lord Carlile of Berriew QC CBE