Monday, April 6, 2015

For the government, is this a good time for the execution of Kamaruzzaman?

Md Kamaruzzman, sentenced to death for 1971 war crimes
With the decision today by the Appellate Division to dismiss the review application made by Md Kamaruzzaman (against the decision of the same court which had earlier upheld the sentence of death), the government is now in a position to execute him.

There does remain the issue of clemency. The appellate division in its decision involving Abdul Quader Molla (involving his review application) accepted that a convicted war criminal does have a right to make a mercy petition, but goes onto state the existing time limits of 7 and 21 days set out in the jail code should not apply. It states that the processes of seeking and disposal of a mercy application, should be done as 'expeditiously as soon as possible'. The judgement states at p.26
He should be informed of his privileges to file a review or a mercy petition, as the case may be, as soon as the intimation about the confirmation of sentence is received by the jail authority and to fix a short date for execution until the existing rules are amended. The petition of review and mercy should be disposed of expeditiously as soon as possible. If the prisoner does not choose to avail of the privileges, the sentence should be executed on the date so fixed without delay, which have become ineffective under prevailing changed circumstances.
Neither Kamaruzzaman, nor his defense counsel, have stated whether he will seek clemency - and no doubt the defense will try and stretch this time out of not saying anything one way or the other as long as possible - but I cannot see Kamaruzzman seeking clemency. This is first because seeking clemency would imply an admission of guilt on his part, and secondly, there is no way of knowing that the clemency would be granted. Kamaruzzman, and the Jamaat-e-Islami, would not want to be in a situation of first admitting guilt and then not being given clemency!

For the government, is this a good timing for an execution? Intriguingly it is likely to happen just before  the mayor elections in Dhaka and Chittagong - just as the Molla execution  took place in December 2013, just weeks before the January 2014 national elections.

Arguably, there at least three reasons why government decision makers might think this was a good time to execute Mollah.

1. The government has categorically defeated the BNP which had sought to force the government to hold new elections. Khaleda Zia has retreated back home with her metaphorical tail between her legs, having gained almost nothing for her party, and lost an enormous amount (imprisonment of thousands of her activists, deaths and injuries of dozens in police shootings, and the remaining activists in hiding etc) - not even mentioning of course the loss of other lives and costs to the country. The Jammat-e-Islami is in a similar position - particularly as their fortunes are tied closely to that of the BNP. The opposition has therefore never been organizationally or morally weaker (though ironically electorally that may not be the case). With the opposition in such a situation, this could be seen by the government as a perfect time to execute Kamarauzzaman - the icing on the cake.

2. The execution of Kamaruzzaman helps to define the Awami League as a 'pro-liberation party', and helps to differentiate the party clearly from the BNP. At a time of elections this is helpful to the Awami League, as it will assist the party in getting the support of people in centre ground who are perhaps skeptical of the governing party, but in favor of justice for 1971. It will of course gain the enthusiasm of some of the party's base.

3. The international community has rarely been so weak in its interactions with the government on human rights issues - and an execution now will gain, I would judge, far less attention or concern than the execution of Molla in December 2013.

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