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Bangladesh lacks in free trial and due process: UN human rights experts

 

Posted Wednesday July 06, 2016

Bangladesh, Free trial, Past Crimes, Justice  
 

Taking note of the February 5th Tribunal sentence for Abdul Kader Molla to life imprisonment and the judicial proceedings are underway in several other cases where there is a risk that the defendants could also be sentenced to death, two independent United Nations human rights experts stressed, on 7 February 2013, that justice for past crimes in Bangladesh requires fair trials. The UN experts voiced their concern over recent sentences, including the death penalty, handed down in cases alleging that due process was not ensured for the trial.

 
HNF Correspondent  
 

Human rights experts appointed by United Nations (UN) have expressed their concern over the lacks in ensuring due process and an atmosphere for free trial in Bangladesh while deciding cases of past and war crimes.

Taking note of the February 5th Tribunal sentence for Abdul Kader Molla to life imprisonment and the judicial proceedings are underway in several other cases where there is a risk that the defendants could also be sentenced to death, two independent United Nations human rights experts stressed, on 7 February 2013, that justice for past crimes in Bangladesh requires fair trials. The UN experts voiced their concern over recent sentences, including the death penalty, handed down in cases alleging that due process was not ensured for the trial.

 

The International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh recently sentenced Abdul Kalam Azad to death, following a trial conducted in absentia that did not provide for all the guarantees of a fair trial and due process, stated a news release issued by the UN human rights office (OHCHR).

“Given the historic importance of these trials and the possible application of the death penalty, it is vitally important that all defendants before the Tribunal receive a fair trial,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, and the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul.

The Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal was established by the Government in March 2010 to try and punish any person accused of committing atrocities, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, in the South Asian nation, including during the country’s 1971 independence war.

“The Tribunal is an important platform to address serious crimes from the past, which makes it all the more important that it respects the basic elements of fair trial and due process,” the experts stated.

Mr. Heyns voiced alarm at the fair trial and due process concerns raised during proceedings that led to the imposition of the death penalty against Mr. Azad, including that the trial was conducted in absentia.“International law requires compliance with the most stringent fair trial and due process guarantees in cases where death sentences are imposed,” he stressed adding further that “Capital punishment may be imposed only following proceedings that give all possible safeguards to ensure a fair trial and due process, at least equal to those stipulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bangladesh is a State party.”

Ms. Knaul said she is concerned by questions that have been raised about the impartiality of judges and prosecution services of the Tribunal, as well as their independence from the executive. “Witnesses and lawyers for the defence have also complained about an atmosphere of hostility, intimidation and harassment,” she added.

“Due process requires a minimum that defendants are able to speak freely with their counsel, have adequate time to conduct their defence, and the ability to call witnesses to speak on their behalf,” Ms. Knaul said while placing her view emphatically that “The principle of equality of arms should be respected at all stages of the proceedings.”

The experts also stressed that any shortcomings in the trial proceedings should be carefully examined during any appeal. “A credible appeal process also constitutes an imperative component of fair trial guarantees, particularly in instances where the death penalty has been imposed,” they noted.

The experts were appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as honorary experts to examine and report back on the country’s situation on a specific human rights theme.

 
 

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