Bangladesh Executes Islamist Leader Nizami for War Crimes  

Motiur Rahman NIzami

Motiur Rahman NIzami

Just after midnight local time on Wednesday, Motiur Rahman NIzami, the 73-year old leader of the Jamaat-e-Islamy party, was hanged to death after having been convicted for war crimes during Bangladesh’s violent independence struggle from Pakistan in 1971, media report. His final plea against the death sentenced was rejected by the Supreme Court on 5 May.

Nizami was convicted by the controversial International Crimes Tribunal for genocide, rape and orchestrating the massacre of top intellectuals during the war.

Nizami is the fifth person to be sentenced to death by the war crimes tribunal since 2013, and the fourth executed Jamaat leader. Ali Ahsan, Mohammad Mojaheed, Abdul Quader Molla, and Mohammad Kamaruzzaman were all executed on similar charges. All those sentenced to death were opposition politicians.

According to Phil Robertson, the deputy director of the Asia division at the Human Rights Watch, the trial was neither free nor fair as the court was cutting corners on fair trial standards, Al Jazeera reports.

“For example, Nizami was allowed to have only four defence witnesses as a man fighting for his life. And the court did allow defence to challenge the inconsistencies in the testimonies of prosecution witnesses,” he told Al Jazeera from Bangkok.

At the beginning of last year, an independent report into the proceedings of the International Crimes Tribunal by Geoffrey Robertson QC concluded that the Tribunal’s proceedings fell seriously short of international standards. According to Robertson, although the Court was set up entirely properly for a legitimate objective, the Act establishing the Tribunal being drafted with the assistance of the International Commission of Jurists, the Tribunal is in practice ordering the execution of the governments’ main opponents.

Media report that the controversial execution raises fears of fresh political violence. In 2013, the convictions of Jamaat-e-Islami leaders by the tribunal triggered some of Bangladesh’s most deadly political violence in decades, with hundreds of people killed, mostly in clashes between Islamists and police. Jamaat-e-Islami reportedly called for a nationwide strike on Thursday in protest of the execution.

Event: Trials in Absentia in International Criminal Justice

IBADate: 8 June 2016 from 14:00-17:30

Venue: The Hague Institute for Global Justice, Sophialaan 10, The Hague, Netherlands

This event is organized by the International Bar Association.

The Keynote presentation will be delivered by the President of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), Judge Ivana Hrdlicková. 

Following the Keynote presentation, two panels of experts will discuss issues related to the theory and practice of trials in absentia: ‘Trials in absentia: human rights law & the judicial process’ (moderated by Dr Mark Ellis, IBA Executive Director) and ‘Effective representation & ethics in trials in absentia‘ (moderated by Ms Anne-Marie Verwiel, expert in international criminal practice).

 Topics to be addressed include

  • Issues related to the fairness of proceedings, including notice to the accused, the right to re-trial, and effective assistance of Counsel
  • The tensions between the promotion of the rule of law, fair trial rights and efficiency of proceedings
  • The future of trials in absentia in international criminal law

The panelists include Mr Geoffrey Robertson QC, the former President of the UN’s Special Court for Sierra Leone, Mr François Falletti, the former Chief Prosecutor of the Paris Court of Appeals, Dr Guido Acquaviva, the Deputy Registrar of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, Ms Héleyn Uñac, Deputy Head of the Defence Office of the STL, as well as other international experts and practitioners with experience in in absentia trials, including at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and the Bangladesh War Crimes Tribunal.

Participation is free of charge. However, prior registration is required to attend the event.

You can register by sending the name and email of all attendees to Hague.Events@int-bar.org before 25 May 2016.

For the full programme of the event, click here.

Independent Report into the Proceedings of the International Crimes Tribunal of Bangladesh

ICT Bangladesh

The International Crimes Tribunal of Bangladesh

Last week, an independent report into the proceedings of the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) in Bangladesh was published. The comprehensive evidence-based report by Geoffrey Robertson QC is the first of its kind and concludes that the Tribunal’s proceedings fall seriously short of international standards.

Since its inception, the International Crimes Tribunal, which has passed a number of death sentences on opposition political leaders for crimes allegedly committed in the 1971 civil war in East Pakistan, has been the subject of significant criticism from both those who have appeared before it and numerous legal experts. All of whom have concluded that the ICT does not adhere to internationally recognised standards.

According to the 126-page report, the major concerns about the ICT are that the Tribunal lacks impartiality, it allows for the death penalty to be imposed without providing a higher standard of procedural safeguards, it permits trials in absentia and there are concerns about witness tampering and intimidation.

Further, the Tribunal appears to have no rules about admissibility of evidence: many of the convictions have been based on hearsay, and in effect, on guilt by association. The Tribunal does not provide the basic guarantees required by international human rights treaties; the rules about providing adequate time and facilities to prepare a defence have been consistently breached, and most notably, defendants are excluded from enjoying the constitutional protections available to all other Bangladeshi citizens. Continue reading