By Toby Cadman Barrister-at-Law
“EP Today” published an article today entitled “International Support for Bangladesh War Crimes Tribunal”. The article purports to demonstrate a high level of international support for the Tribunal.
The article, although well-meaning, is defective in several respects. It refers to a statement given by the Head of the UNDP in Bangladesh at the time, Renata Lok Dessallien, to support the Tribunal and a statement by Amnesty International welcoming such a move. Finally, it ref…ers to the US Ambassador for Global Criminal Justice stating that the US will help Bangladesh hold open and transparent war crimes trials respecting the rights of the defence. In terms of the support provided by the European Parliament, it is clear that the EP recognises the importance of bringing an end to impunity, but nonetheless has expressed concerns as to the trial process.
If any of these points had materialised then it is clear that the trial process may have come some way in meeting international standards. It could also have served as “a valuable international precedent” as suggested by the author.
According to the International Commission of Jurists “…the International Crimes Tribunal does not adhere to international standards of a fair trial and due process…there are serious procedure flaws at all stages: pre-trial release has been routinely and arbitrarily denied; witnesses have been abducted and intimidated; there have been credible allegations of collusion between the Government, prosecutors and judges.”
The author appears to suggest that the Tribunal was established with the full support and assistance of the UN. It is also suggested that it has been endorsed by the US, European Parliament and Amnesty International. Interestingly, that is what we, on behalf of the defence, have long called for. The process should be under UN supervision and should be in accordance with international standards.
Despite the obvious shortcomings in the content of the article, it is clear that at least there is agreement the process should have been supported by the UN and the international community. Regrettably, it is the actions of the BD Government that has pushed the international community away and nothing else.