Saturday, September 14, 2013

Tribunal overreach in Human Rights Watch case

An obvious question that has so far not been raised concerning the prosecution's attempt to seek a contempt conviction over Human Rights Watch (in relation to a report it published on the Ghulam Azam trial), or the tribunal's subsequent order seeking a response from the organization over the allegations, is whether or not the International Crimes Tribunal even has the power to deal with this matter.

Arguably, the tribunal has no jurisdiction at all.

In its written application, the prosecutors stated in para 12:
'That the Petitioner humbly submits that under section 11 (4) of the 1973 Act, this Hon'ble tribunal is empowered to punish 'any person', which includes both natural and legal person, whether living in Bangladesh or abroad, who 'tends to bring it or any of its members into hatred or contempt' and/or 'does anything which constitutes contempt of the tribunal'

The prosecution seem to be asserting that the words's 'any person' includes a person who lives abroad - and the tribunal, in as much as it passed this order, seems to be accepting this.

However, the very first section of the Act - section 1(1) - explicitly limits the jurisdiction of the International Crimes (Tribunal) Act 1973 "to the whole of Bangladesh".

Yet, no aspect of the alleged offense was committed in Bangladesh: the offending article was neither written nor published within the country by Human Rights Watch or its officials.

It is therefore difficult to see how the tribunal has any jurisdiction over the organisation, which is based in the United States or those who work for it whilst outside Bangladesh.

On this basis alone it would appear that Human Rights Watch should be able to swat the legal action away.

We will have to wait and see how the tribunal explains how it does have jurisdiction over HRW.

If the prosecution/tribunal really wanted to take action within its powers it should have issued a notice of contempt against every Bangladesh newspaper/electronic media that published details of the Human Rights Watch statement.

The alleged offenses would at least then have taken place in Bangladesh - and been within the tribunal's competence.

No comments:

Post a Comment