Saturday, April 11, 2015

Statements seeking stay on Kamaruzzaman execution

With Jamaat leader Kamaruzzman about to face the death penalty probably tonight, human rights organizations and other international bodies outside Bangladesh have called on the government to stay the execution - though no similar organizations inside the country have as far as I known done so.*

(See also: Why do people support the tribunal despite criticisms?)

Here are the main statements that have been published:

"The UN human rights experts have on several occasions expressed alarm regarding serious violations of fair trial and due process guarantees in the judicial proceedings before the Tribunal that were reported to them"

United Nations, High Commissioner for Human Rights: Halt execution

"The trial was reportedly rife with irregularities and did not meet international fair trial standards."

Human Rights Watch: Suspend death sentence of sentence of war crimes accused

"At his trial, the court arbitrarily limited the ability of the defense to submit evidence, including witnesses and documents. The court denied the defense the opportunity to challenge the credibility of prosecution witnesses by rejecting witnesses’ earlier statements that were inconsistent with their trial testimony."

"The European Union reiterates its opposition to the use of capital punishment in all cases and under all circumstances. The EU has consistently called for its universal abolition. Capital punishment is not a deterrent against crime and makes miscarriages of justice irreversible. The European Union calls on Bangladeshi authorities to commute all death sentences and to introduce a moratorium on executions as a first step towards definitive abolition of capital punishment.

Amnesty International: President must stop imminent execution

"Bangladeshi civil society, Amnesty International and other international bodies have welcomed the government’s move to end the longstanding impunity in Bangladesh for serious human rights violations in 1971. However, most observers including Amnesty International have expressed concern over how the proceedings before the ICT violated international fair trial standards There were also irregularities in the proceedings, for instance, the court did not allow the defense to challenge the credibility of prosecution witnesses.".

UK Bar Human Rights Committee: Stay Execution pending independent review

"BHRC has raised serious concerns repeatedly about the fairness of trials before the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) in Bangladesh, and in particular in respect of the trial of Muhammad Kamaruzzaman in a statement of 11 November 2014. There is evidence that the trial of Kamaruzzaman was flawed on a number of counts, including arbitrary limitation of witness evidence, limited ability to cross examine key witnesses and concerns relating to the impartiality of judges which resulted in an application to recuse two judges of bias being summarily dismissed. ….

"While the BHRC is opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances, it urges the Bangladeshi authorities now to take immediate steps to prevent an execution that arises out of a flawed trial. An independent review of this case and all other cases currently before the ICT must be conducted if victims are to gain genuine accountability for the atrocities committed in 1971."

Commonwealth Lawyers Association: Concerned over sentencing of Md Kamaruzzaman

"The CLA supports steps taken to seek justice and address impunity. Further, it supports the principle of the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), and its stated aim of prosecuting those who are alleged to be responsible for atrocities committed during the 1971 War of Independence, however, the ICT in its present form does neither of these two things. The likely execution of Kamaruzzaman will be the second instance of state sponsored murder concerning proceedings before the ICT, the first being the execution of Abdul Quader Molla.

The ICT has not adhered to its obligations under domestic Bangladesh law, nor has it met its obligations under those international treaties and agreements to which Bangladesh is a state party, in its failure to ensure all those who appear before it are afforded a fair trial."

At all stages of the process, from court of first instance to appellate courts, the ICT has either failed to acknowledge the serious shortcomings of the procedures adopted, or, if it has recognised such shortcomings, it has failed to address them.

United States government: Best not to proceed

"We have seen progress, but still believe that further improvements to the ICT process could ensure these proceedings meet domestic and international obligations. Until these obligations can be consistently met, it is best not to proceed with executions given the irreversibility of a sentence of death."

* the initial version of this post stated that the lack of a US government statement was notable. However, late in the day, just a few hours before Kamaruzzman was executed, a statement was published and is included above

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