Amendments to the rules of procedure for Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) address some key problems but fail to bring other areas of the law and rules into compliance with international standards, New York based Human Rights Watch said on Monday, July 11.
“We want these trials to succeed in bringing the people responsible for the horrific crimes of 1971 to justice,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “While the amendments are a significant improvement, key problems still need to be fixed to ensure fair trials and avoid unnecessarily lengthy appeals.”
Human Rights Watch said that further amendments to the rules, law and constitution are necessary to ensure fair trials, including:
- Allowing an accused to question the impartiality of the tribunal. At present, the law prohibits this.
- Amending Article 3 of the act regarding the enumeration of crimes to ensure that the definitions of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide conform to international standards.
- Ensuring that the defense is given adequate time to prepare, instead of the current three weeks.
- Providing the accused the right to make appeals during the trial (interlocutory appeals) instead of only at the end. The amendments attempt to address this issue by allowing the tribunal to review any of its orders, either on its own motion or on application by either party. This amendment, while a step in the right direction, does not address whether a different appellate bench would then rule on the order’s merits. For an appellate review to meet international standards, an independent panel of judges must be appointed to conduct the review.
- Establishing a defense office, as has been done when dealing with similar crimes in other countries.
Based on the above-mentioned legalities, the Human Rights Watch appears quite concerned with the personal well-being of the ‘71 Holocaust criminals. Ironically such concerns echo the voices of interests groups that are working successfully to delay the long-awaited justice for the genocide victims of 1971. It’s worthy for the HRW to note that these very war criminals have hired lobbyists in the US for their cause.
Most of these ‘alleged’ war criminals continue to additionally enjoy indemnity for the killing of the father of the nation, Bongobondhu Shekh Mujibur Rahman in 1975. Charges & evidence against them are so definitive that the bureaucratic appeal of HRW to ensure the rights of the defense sounds ironical, if not outright hypocritical.
Charges against them include abetting the killers of Mujib, torturing minorities, August 21, 2004 grenade attack on Awami League leader Shekh Hasina and supporting militancy during the 2001 BNP-Jamayat regime. The 40-year-old history of Bangladesh shows them to be as active in ’75 as they were in ’71.
The ongoing effort for war criminals’ trial is a popular demand of the Bangladeshi youth who voted the Awami League into power in 2008. They want closure for the families of those killed and tortured by Pakistan army and their then East Pakistani collaborators. Imagine the torment of the bereaved relatives of martyred freedom fighters who stood witness to the blatant awarding of state power to those collaborators by the BNP regime and were allowed to share in the rule of a country that they opposed during its birth.
Bangladesh is a country of soft Islam where these very war criminals and collaborators seeded Jihad and communal hatred. They tried to Talibanize Bangladesh by promoting terror groups and Al-Qaeda philosophy with money and muscle. Because of tacit international support these seasoned criminals and religion traders are still conspiring against the peace and development of Bangladesh.
These are no ordinary criminals for the HRW to allow them soft corners; just as Washington allowed no softness in bringing Saddam Hussain and Osama Bin Laden to justice. The US obviously hasn’t forgotten the trauma of 9/11 and the loss of over 3,000 innocent lives.
Then, we have also witnessed the criminal defense system, or lack thereof, at Guantanamo or Abu Ghuraib detention centers. Compared to them the Bangladesh-ICT is sufficiently ensuring international standards in the ongoing trials of these war criminal plus militants. HRW should have something to say about that too.
We are after all trying these war criminals for the killings of 3 million people and the barbaric torture suffered by 400,000 women in ‘71. If Obama was justified in raiding Abbotabad for the 3,000 lives lost on 9/11, where do we stand wrong in our attempt to bring to justice the killers of 3 million lives?
This is also a part of our war against terror.
I hope HRW will rather try to support Bangladesh-ICT so that justice is delayed no more. If we are pressured with demands to allow bails for marked killers, we will have no other option but to ignore this hegemonic business of human rights.