Saturday, August 6, 2011

Govt bans entry of British defence lawyer

What could be behind the government's thinking to ban a British barrister, instructed to represent all five of the Jamaat-e-Islami leaders accused of war crimes? (see: ICT accused UK lawyer ‘banned’ from entering Bangladesh), and confirmation that it was the Home Ministry that was behind it)

If the government wanted to increase people's suspicion about the government's intentions and motives concerning whether it was willing to allow a fair trial of those accused of war crimes during the 1971 war of independent, to take place, well banning the defence lawyer from coming to Bangladesh is certainly a successful way of doing that.

This will now be used, perfectly legitimately one has to say, to argue that the right set out in the International Crimes Tribunal's rules of procedure for the accused to choose their own lawyers is rather void of meaning.

And it just looks so bad! When the government is being criticised right now by most (all?) independent observers of this tribunal for failing to live up to the standards the government originally promised, banning a defence lawyer to come into the country does not look good.

These days, on many issues when the government is given a gun, it will just shoot itself in the foot!

No doubt the government find's Toby Cadman involvement in the trials annoying. He, along with the two other British lawyers, are helping the Jamaat raise concerns concerning both the law under which the tribunal is operating as well as the legality of many of the tribunal's actions. That is of course his job.

But these criticisms would have no resonance if there was no substance to them. Unfortunately there is, and almost all his concerns are echoed by independent international human rights organisations and international lawyers.

Rather than banning lawyers, the government should take steps - by making changes in the law and to the ICT's procedure and operation - so that these criticisms have no traction.

It has had two years to do this, of course, and has in that time made only minimal changes. (see: New Age article, Convicting the Guilty or Fair trial for the accused?)

Lets hope that the government has a change in mind.

First, however, if the Bangladesh government is listening, do let Toby Cadman in!

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