Stop unfair trials and persecution of Muslim scholars in Bangladesh
The government of Bangladesh has started the process of ‘judicial’ murder against its political opponents.
The international community must confront this travesty of justice.
For the wounds of the Bangladesh 1971 War of Independence to heal, Bangladesh needs an accountable process recognised by the international community, not governed by the demands of the ruling party mob.
Under the so-called ‘International Crimes Tribunal’, the government has detained and charged Bangladesh’s opposition leaders, many of whom are prominent Islamic figures. The Tribunal, whose process and conduct has been condemned by international human rights and justice groups, has begun handing down death sentences on these individuals following pressure from the government.
The ruling Awami League government of Bangladesh accuses these individuals of war crimes committed during the country’s bloody war of independence 42 years ago. These individuals have denied all charges and have protested their innocence. We demand that an independent tribunal under the auspices of the UN is instated to deal with the issues related to events of war crimes of 1971.
Instead of following due process and the rule of law, the government looks set to eliminate a number of opposition leaders. One Government Minister has recently declared that the 14 opposition leaders will be hanged and nobody can stop it.
Following this, the government and its supporters have stage-managed a sit-in at the ‘Shahbag More’ (Shabagh intersection), baying for blood and demanding the execution of all these leaders in custody. This is Bangladesh’s very own Tea Party, except they go further: demanding lynching and the rule of the mob.
Feigning this as responding to ‘popular protest’ (even though opposition are prevented from organising similar events), the government has pushed through an amendment of the already questionable law to allow the “change of life imprisonment” verdict handed down by the Tribunal last week to one leader, Abdul Kader Mulla, into a death sentence.
A Travesty of Justice
The ‘International Crimes Tribunal’ has already been exposed for what it really is: a kangaroo court run at the behest of the current Bangladeshi government. In December last year, the Economist revealed illegal collusion between the state, prosecutor and the presiding judge (who later resigned).
Defence witnesses and the defence team have been stifled at every turn. Most serious is the widely reported case of key defence witness Sukh Ranjan Bali who was seized by a special police unit from the entrance to the Tribunal on November 5th. He has not been seen since and it is suspected that he has been kidnapped.
International condemnation that would make a pariah state blush
International civil society organisations continue to point out that the way these trials have been conducted are in total disregard of international norms. Bangladesh’s government pretends to be a secular liberal government operating in a democracy. Yet its actions are fundamentally illiberal.
The US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes, Stephen Rapp; Lord Eric Avebury, Vice-Chair of the UK Parliament’s Human Rights Group; human rights and justice organisations including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Center for Transitional Justice, the International Bar Association, the UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group, UN Human Rights Commission and the UK Bar Association have all expressed deep concerns about the provisions of the law and the procedures followed by the “International Crimes Tribunal”.
Writing an Op-Ed in the New York Times, lawyer John Cammegh stated that the Tribunal “serves as a terrible warning of the way in which the ideals of universal justice and accountability can be abused.”
Last year, the Turkish President Abdullah Gull sent a letter to the President of Bangladesh urging Bangladesh to respect the human rights of Islamic personalities such as Professor Ghulam Azam who is now 91.
End Impunity by Ending this Kangaroo Court
Supporters of this stage-managed farce argue that the victims of the 1971 War require justice. We could not agree more. But justice should be done through a just and fair process, which is missing now. We cannot stand idly by if widely respected Islamic personalities such as Professor Ghulam Azam, Mawlana Motiur Rahman Nizami, Mawlana Delwar Hussain Sayeedi are tried for despicable crimes without a due process. The whole process is politically motivated and is being carried out with clear vendetta.
We urge the world community to stand firm and the UN to act against this miscarriage of justice immediately before it is too late.
Signed by (updated 14 February 2013):
- Al Imdaad Foundation UK.
- Al-Mahfudz Foundation, Indonesia.
- Alnoor Cultural and Educational Trust.
- Alumni Indonesian Muslim Students Organisation.
- Anas Altikriti – British Muslim Initiative.
- ASEAN Muslim Youth Islamic Party, Caucus.
- British Solidarity for Syria.
- Central Board, Crescent Star Party Indonesia.
- Centre for Ensuring Fair Trials, Bangladesh.
- Centre for Human Rights, Bangladesh.
- Chakib Benmakhlouf – Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe, Belgium.
- Da’watul Islam UK & Eire.
- Diwan Dakwah Islamiyah Indonesia.
- Dr Ahmed Alibasic – Centre for Advanced Studies, Sarajevo – Bosnia.
- Dr Daud Abdullah – Middle East Monitor.
- Dr Omar el-Hamdoun – Muslim Association of Britain.
- Dr Rehana Khan – Khawateen, Barnet.
- Friends of Humanity International.
- Fuad Nahdi – Radical Middle Way.
- Indonesian Task Force for Bangladesh.
- Islamic Forum of Europe.
- Islamic Mission Japan.
- Islamische Lia der Kultur – Austria.
- Ismail Patel – Friends of Al-Aqsa.
- Jamiat Ulama Britain.
- Jamiat Ulama South Africa.
- Lancashire Council of Mosques.
- Lord Nazir Ahmed.
- Majid Alzeer – Palestinian Return Centre.
- Malaysian Task Force for Bangladesh.
- Massoud Shadjareh – Islamic Human Rights Commission.
- Mohammed Kozbar – Lebanese Association of Britain.
- Muslim Directory UK.
- Muslim Youth of Malaysia.
- Muslimaat UK.
- National Forum for Protection of Human Rights, Bangladesh.
- Omar Ali – Federation of Students Islamic Societies.
- Pakistan Youth & Community Association.
- Palestinian Forum in Britain.
- Rohingya Minority Crisis Group.
- Samir Abo-Issa – Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center, USA.
- Save Bangladesh Group.
- SEAN Muslim Youth Secretariat (AMSEC).
- Shaykh Qari Ismail – Central Mosque Birmingham.
- Shaykh Saleh Ismail – UK Islamic Council.
- Solihull Muslim Community Association.
- Sri Lanka Islamic Forum-UK.
- Sri Lanka Jama’ath E Islami, Sri Lanka.
- Ta-Ha Publishers.
- Tahir Begg – Begg Williamson & Co Ltd.
- UK Islamic Mission.
- Unaiza Malik – The Muslim Women’s Association.
- Walid Saffour – Syrian Human Rights Committee.
- World Muslim Solidarity Committee.
- Young Muslim Organisation UK.
- Youth Development Movement Indonesia.
- Yusuf Hansa – Noor Ul Islam Trust.
Notes to editors:
- The Bangladesh Crisis Group (BCG) is a UK-based independent campaign and advocacy organisation, which works to promote democracy, human rights and rule of law in Bangladesh. For further information contact BCG Secretary, Abdullah Faliq - www.bangladeshcrisisgroup.com
- Links to reports and statements on the human rights violations in Bangladesh through the so called International War Crimes Tribunal
- UN special Rapporteur -http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=12972&;;LangID=E
Members of The House of Lords, UK:
Lord Avebury: http://ericavebury.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/bangladesh-international-crimes.html?m=1
Lord Carlile: http://www.internationallawbureau.com/index.php/lord-carlile-voices-disappointment- following-bangladesh-government-inaction/
Stephen J. Rapp, US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues -http://www.state.gov/j/gcj/us_releases/remarks/2011/177811.htmThe Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales -https://www.barhumanrights.org.uk/sites/default/files/documents/news/bhrc_statement_on_the_international_criminal_tribunal_in_bangladesh_ict.pdf
The International Centre for Transitional Justice - http://ictj.org/sites/default/files/ICTJ-BGD-NationalTribunal-Briefing-2010-English.pdf
Suzannah Linton, a legal academic - http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10609-010-9121-1
Human Rights Watch (HRW):
On Trial’s legal framework - http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/07/08/letter-prime-minister-sheikh-hasina-re-international-crimes-tribunals-act
Human Rights Watch – “Bangladesh: Government Backtracks on Rights”- http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/02/01/bangladesh-government-backtracks-rightsThe International Bar Association - http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=123502The Economist News Magazine - http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21568349-week-chairman-bangladeshs-international-crimes-tribunal-resigned-we-explain
4. YouTube recordings of tribunal leaks: http://www.youtube.com/user/tribunalleaks
5. Media queries: bangladesh-crisis- firstname.lastname@example.org / 07540 252 150 (Muhammad).