World Bulletin / News Desk
Bangladesh is planning to amend a law to allow the government to appeal for tougher penalties for war criminals, the law minister said on Sunday.
The move comes after two independent United Nations human rights experts said, Bangladesh war crimes trials are not being held in a due process, voicing concern at recent sentences for Islamic leaders.
Some reports say defendants are already clear to be executed in 26 March 2013, despite repeated denials of govt, saying the trial has yet to conclude.
The war crimes tribunal sentenced the Islamic party leader, Abdul Quader Mollah, to life in prison on Tuesday.
The sentence sparked protests by Mollah's supporters, who say his conviction was politically motivated, but also counter-protests by some Bangladeshis who think his sentence was too lenient and he should have been sentenced to death.
The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2010 initiated the trials. Jamaat-e-Islami — a key partner in a former Bangladeshi government — says the charges are politically motivated. Authorities deny the claim.
Bangladesh became part of Pakistan at the end of British occupation in 1947 but it broke away from Pakistan in 1971 after a war between Bangladeshi nationalists, who were backed by India, and Pakistani forces. Some factions in Bangladesh opposed the break with Pakistan.
Law Minister Shafique Ahmed said proposal to amend the law would be placed before the cabinet on Monday for approval, and would then go to parliament for ratification.
The amendment would give both sides the right to appeal against any conviction including inadequate sentence or acquittal. Under the law now, the prosecution can appeal only against an order of acquittal.
"The amendment will be passed in the current parliament session," Ahmed said.
Jamaat-e-Islami was a key partner in the former government of Khaleda Zia, a longtime political rival of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Zia has called the tribunal a farce, while Hasina has urged Zia to stop backing those she says fought against independence.
“Given the historic importance of these trials and the possible application of the death penalty, it is vitally important that all defendants before the Tribunal receive a fair trial,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, and the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul.
Heyns voiced alarm at the fair trial and due process concerns raised during proceedings that led to the imposition of the death penalty against Mr. Azad, including that the trial was conducted in absentia.
Knaul said she is concerned by questions that have been raised about the impartiality of judges and prosecution services of the Tribunal, as well as their independence from the executive.
“Witnesses and lawyers for the defence have also complained about an atmosphere of hostility, intimidation and harassment,” she added.
Eight other Jamaat leaders along with two from the BNP also face charges in the tribunal.Last Mod: 10 Şubat 2013, 16:33