|Dipu Moni - Bangladesh's|
Here is the full version of the statement, taken from the document handed out to diplomats.
Opening Statement by Hon'ble Foreign Minister at the Diplomatic Briefing on the Maiden ICT Judgment at 18hOO on Thursday, 24 January 2013
Excellencies, Heads of international organisations, Members of the Diplomatic corps,
Dear friends and colleagues, I thank you most sincerely for your presence here this evening. This week our nation witnessed a historic moment with the passing of the maiden judgment by the International Crimes Tribunal. I felt I should brief you about the judgment and the Government's perspectives on the overall process.
As you are already aware, on 21 January 2013, the International Crimes Tribunal-2 of the International Crimes Tribunal of Bangladesh (ICT-BD) delivered its judgment in the case of 'The Chief Prosecutor Vs Abul Kalam Azad Bacchu (Absconding)(ICT-BD Case No. 05 of 2012), and found the accused 'guilty of the offences of Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide' and convicted and sentenced him to death under section 20(2) of the International Crimes Tribunal Act of 1973 (ICTA).
The verdict was given after the Tribunal found the accused guilty of 'abduction, confinement and torture, murder, rape and genocide (killing the members of the Hindu community)' as listed in charges 1,3,4,5,6,7,8 of the case. The Tribunal further ruled that since the convicted has been absconding, the sentence of death as awarded would be executed after his arrest or upon his surrender to the Tribunal, whichever is earlier.
The judgment confirmed that the convicted committed the crimes he had been charged with in his capacity as a member of the "Razakar", an auxiliary force created in 1971 through official gazette notification with the purpose of committing atrocities against the Bengali population, particularly targeting pro-liberation intellectuals and members of the Hindu community. The convicted is currently not affiliated with any political organisation and is reportedly the Chairman of an NGO called 'Masjid 1 Council'. The Tribunal has concluded that he had deliberately absconded, and also left the country to evade the process of justice, which further vindicated his culpability.
By way of background, it may be helpful to recall that the ICT-BD, a national Tribunal of Bangladesh, was constituted in March 2010 (Tribunal 1) and March 2012 (Tribunal 2), as per law, as independent, open and transparent Court. The Tribunals have the jurisdiction to try the commission or attempt, abetment or conspiracy to commit crimes against humanity such as murder, rape, torture etc., crimes against peace, genocide, war crimes, violation of humanitarian rules applicable in armed conflicts as enshrined in the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and any other crimes under international law.
The ongoing trials of the accused persons are being conducted in open tribunals witnessed by the relatives of the accused, the media and independent observers to ensure full transparency to meet the requirements of fair trial in compliance with the standards invoked in other trials of international crimes committed around the globe and historically. The trial proceedings are being observed and monitored by the prosecutors and defense counsels and the accused persons through separate computer monitors set up for them in the court rooms. The Rules of Procedure of the Tribunals ensure due process and provide guarantee of all internationally recognized human rights standards for the accused as well as protection measures for victims and witnesses. The recent judgment provides a fairly comprehensive account of the relevant provisions of ICTA and its Rules that are in consonance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in particular.
The Judges of the Tribunals are fully independent in their conduct and have maintained utmost neutrality and transparency. Recently, the Chairman of Tribunal-1 resigned and the Tribunals were reconstituted according to law. According to the provision of ICTA, the proceedings of the cases are continuing in the aftermath of such reconstitution. The accused persons had the right to engage one or more counsels who should be enrolled as legal practitioners of the Bangladesh Bar Council. In case of absentia trial, the Tribunals have the authority to engage a State Counsel as per section 2 12 of ICTA. This has indeed been the case with the case that has just been disposed of, where the accused has been absconding. In case of another accused, there has been the unprecedented instance of the defence counsel cross-examining a prosecution witness for long 45 days. With the conviction of the first of the 14 presentiy accused, the Tribunals currently have 11 cases under trial, with two cases at the final stage.
I think I should reiterate here that the ICTBD, is a domestic tribunal with a mandate to try internationally defined crimes under the ICTA with a view to bringing to justice the perpetrators of one of the most heinous genocides and crimes against humanity of the 20'h century, committed on the soil of Bangladesh in 1971. It needs to be darified that this justice process was never part of any intervention by the international community, nor a result of any international compromise, unlike most justice initiatives of its kind that have taken place in the international arena. The justice process that this Act envisaged setting up is pureiy a domestic process. This means, the International Crimes Tribunals in Bangladesh is not 'international' in nature, but for all meaning and purposes they are 'domestic'. The only international element in the whole scheme of things is the nature of the offences, that is, the "international crimes". Aithough these crimes, due to their nature and trajectory of developments, have historically been a part of international criminal law, the ICTA internalized these crimes and thus made them a part of the jurisprudence of the Tribunal and of Bangladesh's legal system. It, in fact, should be seen as internalization of international law in Bangladesh's domestic legal order, which was done pursuant to Bangladesh's internationai obligations to deal with international crimes and ensure justice to millions of victims of crimes committed in 1971.
Coming back to the recently-delivered judgment itself, we see it as a dear vindication of our Government's commitment to build a secular, democratic polity that cherishes its multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multicultural characters. The crimes committed by the convicted, apart from being of heinous criminal nature, amounted to an affront to these values that this nation had embraced as the hallmark of its freedom struggle.
Secondly, the detailed background information provided by the judgment, particularly about the convicted, makes it abundantly dear that there has been no political motive behind holding these trials, as has often been wrongly perceived and projected by certain sections of the international community and media. The prosecution account of the cases pending before the Tribunals would make it clear that none of the accused has been brought to trial considering their political involvement or affiliation with any political party. The only reference point for the prosecution had been the crimes alleged to have been committed by them during the War of Liberation in 1971, and not their political affiliation or orientation at the time of the commission of the crimes or later.
Thirdly, it sends out a strong message that Bangladesh has now evolved as a society where there would not be any space for the culture of impunity, or what I often refer to as the "horrors of impunity". The Tribunal, in its judgment, has reaffirmed that no person guilty of committing such atrocious crimes, as have been proved beyond doubt against the convicted, should stay outside the reach or purview of justice as it tends to give validity to the culture of impunity, and that prolonged impunity and related denial of truths allow "old wounds to fester and make the victims suffer post-traumatic stress".
I would invite you to imagine what a post-war Europe would be like without trials for warJ)Ycrimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, and the perpetrators of such crimes allowed to roam around freely amongst the victims and their families or assume State power. In Bangladesh's case, due to the deliberate and prolonged impunity that had been allowed by the State to those responsible for the crimes - since the killing of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on 15 August 1975 - a deep, raw wound has been inflicted in our national conscience and psyche, which I believe is somewhat responsible for the ruptures we witness at times in our socio-political fabric. Our Government has been making unstinting efforts to heal these long-festering wounds and to mend the fissures in our political culture and socio-cultural values. This is a difficult exercise no doubt, but the Party that helped this nation achieve its independence must also undertake the challenging task of building it on a firm footing so that no forces can deviate it from its course and slow down the process of the political and economic emancipation of its people that we had all fought for.
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