Bangladesh: Two opposition leaders face imminent execution
Two opposition politicians in Bangladesh, face being hanged for crimes committed during the 1971 Independence War despite the fact that their trials were seriously flawed Amnesty International said today.
Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed and Salauddin Quader Chowdhury were sentenced to death by the country’s International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) in 2013, on charges of war crimes and genocide at trials that failed to meet international fair trial standards.
The two men will have their review petitions, effectively their last appeals, heard on Monday (2 November). If their convictions are upheld then, there is no legal way to overturn the death sentences.
Both men had their convictions and sentences upheld on appeal in June and July this year and in the government’s haste to see more war crimes convicts executed, both men were subjected to a speeded up appeals’ process. The UN has stated the ICT fails to meet international fair trial standards.
David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s South Asia Research Director, said:
“Their trial and appeals process were clearly flawed and since they now face the death penalty the ultimate miscarriage of justice may be only days away.
“The crimes committed during the war of independence were horrific, but the death sentences only perpetuate violence. The lack of fair trials makes the use of the death penalty even more disturbing.”
Salauddin Quader Chowdhury
Salauddin Quader Chowdhury’s defence team highlighted serious flaws in his appeal hearing. In one instance, the Supreme Court failed to dismiss the statement of a witness known as “PW-6” despite him having testified that an individual who could corroborate his statement was dead. In fact that individual was alive, and had submitted a signed affidavit to the court.
Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed
Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed’s appeal to the Supreme Court failed to dismiss the prosecution’s claim that he had incited his subordinates to commit human rights abuses, despite the fact that no subordinates had been identified or testified on record.
The ICT was set up by the government in 2009 to try people involved in crimes committed during Bangladesh’s Independence War in 1971. At that time, crimes including mass killings and rape had been perpetrated by the Pakistani army and their collaborators, fighting against forces seeking independence.
Amnesty welcomed the Bangladeshi government’s commitment to investigate the mass violations and bring those responsible to justice, but insisted that the accused should receive fair trials without recourse to the death penalty, which has not happened.
Almost all of the ICT’s verdicts since it was established have been against members of opposition parties, mainly individuals associated with the Jamaat-e-Islami party.
Serious crimes were also committed by pro-independence forces, but no one has been investigated or brought to justice for them.