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Bangladesh: Overturn death sentence for war crimes politician

The death sentence handed down today for a leading opposition figure in Bangladesh for war crimes will not bring justice to the millions of victims of the independence war, Amnesty International said.

Motiur Rahman Nizami, head of Jamaat-e-Islami, the third-largest political party in Bangladesh, was sentenced to death for war crimes by the International Crimes Tribunal, a Bangladeshi court established to investigate the events of Bangladesh’s 1971 independence war.

All verdicts so far have gone against individuals associated with the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party. The tribunal has faced allegations of unfair trials from rights groups since it was established, concerns echoed by Nizami’s defence team which has repeatedly complained that trial proceedings have not followed fair trial standards.

Previous death sentences handed down by the tribunal have led to large-scale street protests, and Jamaat-e-Islami has already called for a three-day national strike in protest against today’s verdict.

Amnesty International’s Bangladesh Researcher Abbas Faiz said:

“Bangladesh must overturn the death sentence against Motiur Rahman Nizami.

“The crimes committed during the independence war were horrific, and there is no question that victims deserve justice. But the death penalty only perpetuates the cycle of violence.

“The ICT is a unique opportunity for justice and reconciliation in Bangladesh. But in the face of consistent concerns raised by the defence team about the trials not being fair it will only have the opposite effect and create more resentment.

“The political situation in Bangladesh is extremely tense, and there is a real risk that any street demonstrations could erupt into violence. It is crucial that security forces ensure that people’s right to demonstrate peacefully is respected, and that leaders on all sides urge their supporters to not commit abuses.”

Bangladesh carried out two executions last year.

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